LILLOOET - Members of a First Nation in British Columbia's Interior sounded drums and chanted songs, as they grappled with a violent attack that only hours earlier injured 10 people and left the suspect dead.
But the small crowd, gathered Wednesday night near the entrance of the Bridge River Band Office, located about nine kilometres northwest of Lillooet, B.C., was moved not by anger but a deeper spiritual purpose, Chief Susan James told reporters.
"Not only were people injured in this incident but a life was lost as well, so these people are here to make that, to have that spirit go off in a proper way," said James.
As James spoke, five patients remained in hospital, two of whom were in critical condition, two in serious condition and one dealing with non-life-threatening injuries, said Michaela Swan of the Interior Health authority.
"All the patients will remain in hospital until they're medically cleared to go home. It's really hard to speculate at this point in time," she said. "There certainly are some pretty serious injuries involved and we're monitoring the situation closely."
Swan said five other patients were released from hospital earlier Wednesday.
RCMP said they responded to a call just before 8:30 a.m. about a man with a weapon at the band office, and when officers arrived they found the suspect restrained.
"RCMP members arrested the male but were unable to transport him as he became unconscious and unresponsive," police said in a news release.
The officers started CPR, but resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful and the man was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.
Coroner Barb McLintock confirmed one man died in the incident but couldn't provide further details. The B.C. Coroners Service was sending a team to investigate, she added.
An emergency worker who didn't want to be identified said the man apparently attacked one person with the hammer, and when others in the office went to help they were also beaten.
"I'm not prepared to say what the weapon was," said James. "Police are investigating what it was, and I can't confirm what it was."
James said the violence began when a band member entered the building and injured workers in three different offices.
"He approached each office and proceeded to inflict injury on a number of people that were there," she said, noting other members subdued the suspect.
Two people were airlifted to hospitals in Kelowna and Kamloops, she said, adding one of them was a woman and had undergone surgery.
James said two other members were driven to Kamloops by ambulance and both were awake and responsive.
Among the victims were a woman in her 60s and the band's administrator of more than 30 years, she said.
A number of people were treated in hospital for shock and trauma, and James said all those injured were long-time employees of the band.
Because the man died while in police custody, the Independent Investigations Office is now involved with the case.
The office said it was notified of the incident about 11:30 a.m. and its investigators were expected to arrive later Wednesday, when they would examine the actions of officers related to the man's death.
"Standard investigative activities include locating and interviewing any witnesses and collecting evidence from the scene," said a news release.
The office said it would not provide any details about the man who died while in custody, nor release further updates.
It said the RCMP will maintain jurisdiction over the investigation into the initial attack by the man.
"I'm shocked, I'm shocked, the community is shocked, we're all shocked that this could happen in our community and for no apparent reason ... we can't comprehend what (the) reason might be for this," said James.
James said the community must now find its centre so it can begin the healing process.
"We're grateful that it wasn't worse but you don't believe that this kind of thing can happen in these small communities," she said.