What RCMP initially believed to be a kidnapping on the weekend in Princeton is now being investigated as a hostage taking.
Shots were fired in a Princeton mobile home park Saturday as RCMP arrested an Oliver man wanted on a Canada-wide warrant for attempted murder and then rescued a young woman who was travelling with the suspect.
Seven police agencies were involved in a lengthy search and chase for Afshin Maleki Ighani, 45, that ended in Deblyn Motor Home Estates when the suspect was tracked down by a police dog in a bush-area near Coalmont Road around 3:30 p.m.
A gun was found at the scene, said RCMP Sgt. Barry Kennedy.
Ighani is charged with attempted murder, and numerous related offenses, following a shooting in Oliver last week.
Princeton police were alerted to Ighani’s proximity when they received a phone call Saturday at about 11 a.m. by a man who said he was travelling with Ighani.
“He called and identified him [Ighani] and said: ‘He just kicked me out of the car, stole my car and kidnapped my girlfriend,’” said Kennedy.
RCMP believe the caller was removed from the car at Placer Mountain Service Road and managed to flag down a passing vehicle that took him into Princeton. He then took a motorcycle from the parking lot of a restaurant and raced off in pursuit of the suspect, east towards Keremeos.
Keremeos RCMP established a roadblock that did not intercept the suspect vehicle. The woman’s boyfriend broke through the barricade and rode to Okanagan Falls, where the bike was abandoned. He later phoned police to give a statement, and is being treated “for the purposes of this particular file, as a victim,” said Kennedy. He added all three people involved in Saturday’s events are known to each other.
An RCMP helicopter was dispatched from Kelowna, and by tracing the woman’s cell phone location officers determined the pair were headed back towards Princeton, said Kennedy. The helicopter established visual contact with the car, and communicated to officers on the ground who managed to track the vehicle to the Deblyn mobile home park.
By that time, the woman was driving the car, said Kennedy.
“One of the police officers attempted to disable the vehicle by shooting the tire.”
A neighbour, who did not give her name, said she saw a police officer trying to break the glass of the car’s passenger window with the butt of his rifle.
The car drove only about 100 metres before the suspect fled on foot and was located by the RCMP canine unit.
Kennedy said police do not believe that the suspect or victim had ties to Princeton that would have led them to the park.
“We think they were trying to avoid the helicopter and were possibly seeking a wooded area and got lost. They ended up on a one way with no exit situation.”
The female victim was escorted from the scene in the back of a police vehicle. She was tear-stained and in visible distress.
Kennedy said the woman, 20, was physically unharmed but extremely traumatized.
“She spent a considerable amount of time with our victim services people … She is now home with family.”
Kennedy said the operation that put Ighani behind bars is a credit to local law enforcement. “It was well put together. It was well organized. Our dispatchers did a great job coordinating all the resources.”
In addition to the charge of attempted murder in Oliver, Ighani faces charges in that town of uttering threats, pointing a firearm, possessing a restricted weapon without a license, breach and other weapons possession charges.
Ighani was twice ordered deported from Canada, according to Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada documents. In 2002 he was convicted in Canada of an offence that was punishable by maximum term of at least 10 years and was in possession of a restricted weapon. Then in 2007 he was convicted of four offences including trafficking cocaine and possession of a firearm. Ighani successfully appealed both orders to have him removed from the country.
Ighani appeared in Penticton provincial court on Monday and was adjourned to May 3 so he could obtain proper counsel.
Thomas Szajko, who was allegedly shot by Ighani in Oliver last week, was also scheduled to make an appearance at court on Monday for assault causing bodily harm. That matter was adjourned to Wednesday.