Western Forest Products operations throughout the Cowichan Valley were closed with flags flying at half-staff Wednesday and a 47-year-old man is in police custody facing murder charges after two people were shot dead at WFP’s Nanaimo mill and two were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds.
Kevin Douglas Addison is facing two counts of first degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
A gunman opened fire Wednesday morning, first shooting a man in the parking lot and then shooting three others in the sawmill office.
The alleged gunman is a former employee of the mill.
Nanaimo RCMP said multiple 911 calls came in at 6:58 a.m. Mounties, including an emergency-response team member who was on shift, arrived at the scene within three minutes. The gunman surrendered peacefully and a shotgun was seized.
Police locked down the building and searched for other threats but no other suspects were found.
All four victims were taken to hospital.
Two were pronounced dead. Family have confirmed that one of those killed was 61-year-old Michael Lunn, an employee with Western Forest Products since 1980.
"All they would tell us at the police department, we had to go down there, [was] that he had passed," said Lunn’s sister Linda Bledsoe. "He died at the scene."
"It’s just … it’s unexplainable."
Lunn was the only boy in a family of seven sisters and loved his job at the mill, Bledsoe said. "We were all very close," she said. "None of us are feeling anything right now."
Fred McEachern, who lived in Nanaimo, was also killed. A family member who answered the phone at his home said: "Us and the other families are grieving and we’d like to have some privacy at this time."
Police believe the gunman was acting alone, said Nanaimo RCMP detachment commander Supt. Mark Fisher.
Two men remain in hospital with gunshot wounds.
One man was airlifted to Victoria General Hospital in critical condition.
Another man, Tony Sudar, was taken to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and is in stable condition.
Sudar is the company’s vice-president of manufacturing. "This type of extreme violence is extremely rare," Fisher said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
He said it was too early to speculate on the motive for the shooting.
Joe Kaila, who works at the mill, said he was outside when he heard a loud explosive noise.
"All I heard was a big bang. I thought one of the gas tanks blew up," he said as he left the site.
"First I thought it was a shotgun, then I said, no. … Everybody was shocked."
About 75 people work at the mill, which is on Port Drive along Nanaimo’s waterfront assembly wharf at the edge of its downtown. The mill processes wood products for export around the world.