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'One of the most generous hearts:' Nanaimo shooting victim in hospital in a coma

Clint Smith went into his latest surgery with a bullet from a .22 rifle in his abdomen, said Paul Leslie, a retired pastor at a Nanaimo church who is speaking for the family.
Clint Smith remains in hospital after being shot three times while being chased from an encampment in Nanaimo, along with a number of supporters who had gone with him. FAMILY PHOTO

The owner of a mechanic shop injured in a shooting in Nanaimo was scheduled for more surgery on Wednesday and could face months of recovery, his father-in-law said.

Clint Smith went into his latest surgery with a bullet from a .22 rifle in his abdomen, said Paul Leslie, a retired pastor at a Nanaimo church who is speaking for the family.

Leslie hoped the bullet would be removed Wednesday. “If not, that will require further surgery.”

The Lantzville resident has been in an induced coma and is on a ventilator, Leslie said.

Smith was injured Sunday afternoon after he and a few supporters approached an encampment located down a ravine next to the Millstone River to retrieve property stolen from his auto repair shop, Ernie’s Blackpoint Repair at 587 Townsite Rd.

A fight broke out. Smith and his friends were chased out of the area and headed back toward their vehicles on the far side of Terminal Avenue, followed by gunshots.

After he was shot, Smith was taken to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

He had his wife’s car, which was damaged, Leslie said. A bullet went through its radiator.

Smith was raised in Prince George and in a small community near Campbell River, where his grandfather owned a business called Ernie’s Blackpoint Repair.

His grandfather taught him the basics of mechanics, “which he loved,” Leslie said.

When Smith opened his own business about three years ago, he named it after his grandfather’s company.

Smith has a teenage son from a previous marriage.

Leslie said his outgoing son-in-law has given back to the community in many ways. For the past couple of Christmases, his garage has been used as a depot for a local toy drive. He helps others who are “down on their luck” and has been involved in community cleanup efforts.

He has hauled scrap cars to the Lantzville Fire Department to be used for practice. Smith has also fixed up and given a couple of cars to single parents at no cost, said Leslie, who called his son-in-law a friendly and gentle person. “He has got one of the most generous hearts that I know of.”

Prior to the most recent thefts, Smith had experienced a number of break-ins at his business, along with damage to vehicles on his lot and the theft of equipment that’s necessary to his work, Leslie said.

In the most recent case, a table saw, a portable lift and hand tools were taken from a shed at the rear of the site.

While he is in hospital, Smith’s three employees are taking care of the shop.

RCMP say they are continuing their investigation. No charges have been laid.

Leslie said the family is thankful for the support and “outpouring of love and ­generosity” from the ­community.”

An online fundraising campaign had raised more than $18,500 through 224 donations by Wednesday afternoon.

In a recent post on Ernie’s Blackpoint Repair’s Facebook page, Smith wrote: “My empathy for marginalized people is strong. Being homeless does not necessarily mean you are a bad person. … Being homeless is not a crime.”

The business hands out cold water in the summer and toques and food in the winter, the post said.

“I can actually identify with the hardships these people suffer, as I’ve experienced it myself as a young man.”

The Nanaimo Area Public Safety organization is staging a public rally at 11 a.m. in Nanaimo’s Pearson Park, One Terminal Ave., on Thursday.

Clean Streets Penticton will have a representative at the event. Jason Reynen, one of its spokespeople, said Wednesday that he wants Nanaimo to know “that there is support out there and together we can make a difference.

“I know it is a difficult time, especially with everything going on in every city,” said Reynen. He said he has also been involved in retrieving stolen property. “Obviously you always want to do it in a non-confrontational way.”

“I’m one for standing up for our rights, being able to take back what is ours.”

It’s important to be vigilant about what is happening in a community without being a vigilante, said Reynen, who would like to see repeat offenders jailed and those who commit theft of less than $5,000 subject to stiffer penalties.

The province announced this week it is dedicating $25 million over three years for police-prosecutor-probation officer teams throughout B.C. to concentrate on repeat violent offenders to improve community safety.

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