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Extortion, arson charges for man who trapped three Kamloops United Way employees

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August 05, 2016 - 9:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - A man is facing 11 charges after lighting fires in downtown Kamloops, demanding money from the United Way and trapping three employees in their boardroom.

On Tuesday, July 26, a man was seen lighting three fires in downtown Kamloops in or near buildings between 5:55 a.m. and 8:35 a.m., according to Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Jodi Shelkie. Then, at 9:25 a.m., he went into a business and demanded money.

United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo executive director Danalee Baker says three of the organization's employees were blocked in the boardroom after the man asked to speak with them. He then demanded $500 and said he was wanted for murder.

“That was probably just one of his tactics to scare them,” she says. “Eventually one staff member got out and called the police."

The man was known to the employees as he sometimes slept in the alcove in front of the office. Staff had offered him water or coffee in the past.

Police arrived shortly after the call and arrested Leonard Joseph Cantin without incident.

Baker says it wasn’t a violent incident and no one was hurt or missed work, though ASK Wellness staff did come by to help debrief the United Way staff.

Cantin now faces multiple arson charges along with assault with a weapon, extortion and unlawful confinement. He is currently in police custody and scheduled for a court appearance on Aug. 18.

Baker says the incident is a reminder of how complex the challenges are for people on the street.

“We’re committed to help that population just as much as before, maybe even more so,” she says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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