A man has been charged after he allegedly threatened to kill customers with a hatchet at a Mountain Equipment Company store in North Vancouver.
The suspect first appeared in North Vancouver Provincial Court on Wednesday, on the charge of possessing a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Just after 7 p.m. on Tuesday, police arrived at the store after receiving multiple 911 calls about a man swinging a hatchet at customers.
The man first entered the store, asking to buy bear spray and a knife, according to witness reports given to North Vancouver RCMP. Once he was denied, he became upset and threatened to kill people there, said Const. Mansoor Sahak, adding that there were fewer than 50 customers in the store at the time.
The man left the store briefly, but then returned moments later “swinging a hatchet at people inside the store,” Sahak said.
Police were on scene minutes after the first 911 calls, Sahak said, and the man was taken into custody “without any further incident.” No one was injured, he added.
“He was initially apprehended under the Mental Health Act and taken to [Lions Gate Hospital] where he was then released shortly after and … transferred into police custody,” Sahak said.
Sahak said the man has a “history” with police, and lives with no fixed address in Vancouver.
“Obviously, this person is a danger,” Sahak said. “[His actions] put a lot of people’s lives at risk at the business with the hatchet, and quite a few customers were scared, and they were hiding inside the store – it’s obviously very frightening for those witnesses.”
Sahak said there is a mental health component to the incident as well.
“That’s why he was apprehended under the Mental Health Act initially. We want to make sure that this individual is taken care of and getting the help that he needs,” Sahak said.
Eldon Maxine Lemaigre, 43, appeared in court again on Thursday. His bail hearing was adjourned until Friday.
MEC commends staff and security team for fast response
MEC has released a statement commending its staff and security team for their immediate response to the incident.
"Their proactive actions and the calm response from customers played a crucial role in ensuring the safety of everyone in the store," said Peter Hlynsky, chief operations officer.
"This incident serves as a testament to the professionalism and readiness of our employees, who acted swiftly and decisively to prevent escalation and contact the authorities. We would like to express our gratitude to those individuals involved, including our dedicated staff, security team and the local law enforcement authorities," he continued.
Hlynsky said MEC wants to assure customers and the community that the company remains committed to creating a secure and welcoming environment in all its stores. "We continually review and enhance our security measures to prevent incidents and respond promptly if they occur," he said.
Following the incident, MEC said it has made a range of resources and support systems available for the well-being of staff.
Update (March 25, 2023, 12:18 p.m.): This article has been updated from its original version with the suspect's court appearances, and a statement from Mountain Equipment Company.