SURREY â€” A pair of baking racks was all that stood between a bakery employee and a distraught man who was following her with a knife Sunday morning at a Surrey supermarket.
Then Metro Vancouver Transit Police arrived and told the man to drop the knife. When he moved toward the officers instead, they shot him. He died later in hospital.
According to authorities and the womanâ€™s firsthand account as retold by her boyfriend, the man had been stabbing himself when police arrived at the Whalley Safeway.
Transit Police spokeswoman Anne Drennan said Surrey RCMP received a call at 8:03 a.m. that a man had gone behind a counter at a convenience store near Surrey Central SkyTrain station and repeatedly demanded that an employee give him a knife.
Mounties alerted Transit Police, who were 300 metres away, but by the time they arrived the man had left the scene.
The two Transit Police officers then monitored Surrey RCMP radio channels and heard a call that there was a man with a knife in a nearby Safeway.
They arrived moments later to find a man repeatedly stabbing himself, Drennan said.
â€œThey started to talk to him, and issued commands and directions to drop the knife, drop the knife repeatedly,â€ Drennan said.
â€œRather than follow their directions, he advanced on the members with the knife and shots were fired.â€
Drennan said an officer shot the man and he was rushed to Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, where he died.
Blake Simning told The Province that his girlfriend, an employee at the Safeway location for 29 years, was working in the bakery Sunday morning and called 911 when she heard a commotion in the store.
Simningâ€™s girlfriend, whose name he didnâ€™t offer, was being kept inside the store while investigators interviewed witnesses, but she was able to phone and text him to share what she had seen.
She told Simning the store had just opened, so few customers were inside at the time.
She walked through the store to look down a few aisles and find out what was happening, Simning said.
â€œShe saw a guy that looked like he had no shirt on and he had stabbed himself repeatedly. He took the knife off one of their shelves, I guess.
â€œHe spotted her and started following her down the aisle. She ran into the bakery and took two really big, tall bakery racks to block off the entrance, and at that point police had shown up and fired two shots.â€
One shot hit a freezer or cooler and another struck the man with the knife, Simning said.
Simning said his girlfriend â€œwas a messâ€ following the incident.
â€œSheâ€™s crying and sheâ€™s upset because she was right there when they shot him, she was trying to hide behind something,â€ he said.
The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. (IIO), charged with investigating officer-involved incidents involving serious injury or death, was dispatched to the scene.
IIO spokeswoman Kellie Kilpatrick said the office was notified of the incident at or near a Safeway grocery store at 104th Avenue and King George Boulevard in Surrey just after 8 a.m. Sunday.
Kilpatrick said the IIO received unconfirmed reports that the man was â€œself-inflictingâ€ prior to his contact with police.
Surrey RCMP secured the area until the IIO arrived. The IIO spent Sunday gathering video surveillance footage and canvassing and interviewing witnesses.
Representatives from Safeway declined to comment Sunday morning, but Kilpatrick said store employees quickly implemented emergency protocols during the incident.
Drennan said both officers involved in the shooting Sunday were experienced members of the force.
Transit Police officers receive the same training and certifications as members of other police agencies in B.C. and are specifically trained to de-escalate situations where mental health may be a concern, she said.