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Police wound Arviat man after shooting spree

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Monday, May 7, 2012

A 26-year-old man involved in a violent confrontation with police in Arviat on April 27 faces four charges.

The man was reported to police just after 5 p.m. that day as walking around the hamlet with a firearm and shooting at dogs.

Bernie Okotak was shot in the torso by police during the course of his arrest and is recovering in hospital from non-life-threatening wounds.

He has been charged with possession of a restricted firearm and ammunition, possession of an offensive weapon dangerous to public peace, shooting at a dog and mischief. An outside police agency will investigate the discharge of the firearm by the RCMP officer.

One dog was fatally shot by the gunman while another had to be put down by its owners after being wounded.

The dogs were family pets tied up in their yards at the time of the shootings.

More charges could still be laid in the case.

The pistol the man had in his possession is suspected to be the same one stolen from the Arviat RCMP detachment office during an overnight break and enter on April 10.

Arviat Mayor Bob Leonard said it was shocking that a police station could be broken into and a weapon stolen from it like that.

He said although he's been informed the situation has been addressed, the property owners still have something to answer for.

"The building has no security cameras or alarm system.

"It's one of their older detachments and it's number one on the list in all of Canada to be replaced, but we have better security at the hamlet office than they do at that building.

"I accept their statement that the gun was locked in a locker, but it's pretty amazing that an amateur could access it so easily.

Leonard said the overall sense in the community following the incident is one of relief that the stolen pistol was recovered without something more tragic having occurred.

"He (Okotak) lost a young female family member about 10 years ago, or so, who was mauled to death by dogs here in Arviat," said Leonard.

"Apparently, according to the family, he's never got over that and it really starts to affect him this time of year.

As of press deadline, Leonard said he has not been in touch with the owners of the dogs that died in the incident.

He added that one of the dogs that was shot was a rottweiler, "but it was a really friendly animal and not a vicious dog at all."

"Everybody in town hopes if there's any good that can come out of this, it's that (Okotak) gets the help he needs now."

RCMP Chief Supt. Steve McVarnock said he is not aware, in his 31 years with the RCMP, of any other incident in which a detachment was broken into and a service pistol stolen.

"We're very concerned about the latest incident that happened Friday night," said McVarnock. "We are very pleased the injuries to the suspect are not considered life-threatening and medically, we have been advised he will make a full recovery."

Three RCMP members are posted in Arviat. The Commission for Public Complaints, the independent oversight wing who monitors and reviews complaints against the RCMP nationally, is aware of the incident, said McVarnock.

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