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Swords returned to Prince George woman after weapons seizure

A pair of two-bladed sharpened swords, two airsoft pistols, and a can of bear spray have been returned to a Prince George woman, following an RCMP weapon seizure at a residence on Oct. 26, 2022.

A pair of two-bladed sharpened swords, two air-soft pistols, and a can of bear spray have been returned to a Prince George woman, following an RCMP weapon seizure at a residence on Oct. 26, 2022. 

The woman is known to have a history of mental illness, including 'paranoid and delusional behaviours', notes a Nov. 21, 2023 provincial court ruling. 

"She has called the police in the past to report incidents which, upon investigation, the police determined did not occur," the ruling added.

Two RCMP officers involved with the weapon seizure were called as witnesses during court proceedings, and explained that they initially attended the incident as a Car 60 file, a social program, which pairs police with a psychiatric nurse.

Police say they had previously attended the residence on a regular basis, summoned by the woman and her elderly mother-in-law, with a call in June 2022 to specifically to check on the woman, who was flagged by RCMP as someone suffering from mental health issues for six to eight months before the October incident. 

"The two residents believed there were people in their backyard – people trying to break into the residence. The police and Car 60 attended and did not find any evidence of intruders," noted the ruling of one of the prior calls. Surveillance footage showed that there had been no one in the backyard. 

The woman was arrested under the Mental Health Act after police received a call from the woman's stepmother, informing them that the woman was suicidal and potentially had a gun. The stepmother was a regular contact for the woman when in distress, explained the ruling. 

RCMP officers remained at the treeline at the perimeter of the residence, roughly 75 metres from the front door, contacting the woman by cellphone, with an officer testifying that it's risky for police to knock on a door when 'a person is barricaded inside their residence with a firearm'. 

By cell, woman told officers that she was chasing someone around the residence with a gun, but would come to the door. When the woman eventually came out of the residence, she was not carrying any weapons. The woman then invited an officer and a nurse from Car 60 inside. 

Another officer cleared the residence and no one else was found.

The residence was searched for firearms and officers discovered a crossbow with a broken string and four bolts, a canister of bear spray, the pair of sharpened swords, two air-soft pistols, and a two-barrelled shotgun loaded with two unspent shells.

One of the officers also observed a six to eight-inch circular hole in the front window of the residence, which they believed was consistent with someone discharging a shotgun. The woman did not a possess a licence for the shotgun and had carelessly stored it, both criminal violations.

The woman was not arrested for the firearms offences, with RCMP deeming it more appropriate to apprehend her under the Mental Health Act. 

The woman was hospitalized for 30 days at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, after being seen by an ER doctor who referred her to a psychiatrist. She was involuntarily kept after being certified under sections 22 and 23 of the Mental Health Act. 

It's noted in the ruling that the woman did not want to go to the hospital willingly, and had to be handcuffed by police, who brought her to the hospital. 

"Her speech was erratic. She believed people were watching her through the cameras. She believed the police were hired by someone else. She said that out loud. She thought police were sent there to get her," testified one of the officers.

The woman's trial was not criminal as she had no criminal record, explained Justice Judith Doulis, and noted there was no evidence the woman had "actually acted violently with respect to a firearm."

"The Crown’s evidence of [their] circumstances and mental state in the subsequent six months is thin," wrote Doulis. RCMP also failed to provide dates for five previous interventions. 

In the interest of safety, Doulis did impose a two-year discretionary firearms ban. The shotgun, crossbow, bolts, and shotgun shells were ordered to be forfeited or disposed of.