The person who discharged a can of bear spray inside Penticton’s Compass House today has been released by RCMP.
At approximately 10:50 a.m. on May 23, emergency crews responded to a call at 123 Nanaimo Ave. E due to complaints that bear spray had been discharged inside the residence. Operated by the Penticton Salvation Army, Compass House is an emergency shelter for men and women facing homelessness.
“We’re not sure who did it. (At the time it happened) the police were looking for them, but we’re not sure who set it off,” said Roger Evans, supervisor of Compass House. “We’re not sure if the spray was set off upstairs or downstairs or both. I was in my office and the other guys were in the other office. Then we all started to choke and cough and stuff like that, so we knew something was wrong.”
Six people in total were affected by the bear spray, but none required medical treatment from the attending ambulance. No one was sprayed directly with the bear spray.
Evans said he is thankful emergency crews responded quickly to assess everyone and air out the house. He said he is not sure how someone was able to enter the house with bear spray, as staff would have confiscated it had they found it in someone’s possesion.
“We search bags, but not everyone 100 per cent of the time. Somehow this got smuggled in,” said Evans. “I don’t think we’ll change anything, we’ll keep doing our checks. We check all the bags of the new residents. It’s tough because you get to know people, and you know they don’t bring stuff in so you might let them slip by one time.”
According to Captain Rob Trupp with the Penticton Fire Department, the use of the bear spray was “malicious” as whoever activated it “ran out of the house.” He said it took approximately 20 minutes to air out the residence using a positive pressure fan.
According to a release, Penticton RCMP later received a call from the individual who set off the bear spray, turning himself in. He was located and arrested and explained to the officers “he was trying to defend himself from unknown individuals.”
Evans said he does not believe this was an act of self-defense as there were few people in the house at the time. The release states that because “no direct victim was identifed, the man was released from police custody.”
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