October 11, 2014 - 12:54 PM
SLOCAN CITY, B.C. - The man at the centre of an RCMP manhunt in this small B.C. community is being described by his neighbours as someone who loves his animals but has a strong dislike of authority.
Peter DeGroot, 45, has been identified by police as their suspect and as someone who is armed and dangerous.
Police say that when they investigated a dispute between two people, a man, armed with a rifle, shot at police. He then fled into the woods when police returned fire.
"I heard a pop, pop, pop," said Patty Burge who was watching TV two doors down.
"I got up to look out the window and there was a lot of RCMP on the street. I opened the door and the officer told me to get back into the house."
Patty and her husband Jim have lived two doors away on the same street as DeGroot for about a year.
They say he has been living in his van for the past year on the lot that has a small barn on it. His animals include cows, pigs and 25 chickens.
"We had no trouble with him. He was soft-spoken and quiet but he had military experience and something happened there, I think," said Patty.
"He loves his animals more than life itself. He was being evicted by the owner's son-in-law and this is what started the altercation," she added.
She said DeGroot had fallen on hard times over the past year and was having problems feeding his animals.
"We never had any problem with him. He just wanted to live in peace by himself and with his animals. They're his whole family," she said.
As an RCMP helicopter flew over Jim Burge said police will have a difficult time finding DeGroot and an even harder time getting him to give up.
"I think he would be a difficult man to find," he said.
"I think he's dangerous now because he knows what he has done already. He knows they're out to get him I don't think be believes they would take him quietly," Jim said.
"I don't think he would surrender."
The village of 300 is a heavily treed hodgepodge of cabins, mobile homes and ramshackle houses. The streets are wide and the occasional individual could be seen walking down the streets.
The police presence was still heavy on Saturday. RCMP officers guard the entrances to the town, asking people leaving to pop their trunks on the off chance that the missing suspect was hiding inside.
At the RCMP command post, located in the Village of Slocan office, a number of officers wearing camouflage were preparing for another day of searching the woods surrounding the community.
The officer in charge said most residents will be allowed in - except for those living near where the incident took place.
"It's kind of a low key kind of thing. We still have checkpoints in place to check people coming in and out but people are going to be allowed to come into their homes as of today," said Staff Sgt. Don Smawley.
"There is limited access. We are urging the public to be cautious and limit their outdoor activities if they can."
Smawley said the search will continue using officers, helicopters and search dogs.
But he acknowledges it's a tough area to search.
"It's a very vast area. It's remote. It's rugged. Lots of places for an individual to hide if they want to. Right now, the search continues."
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2014