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'Heavily armed' man arrested after shots fired, Molotov cocktail thrown in Edmonton city hall

Police and children leaving Edmonton city hall after a security incident. Police say a man has been arrested after shots were fired and a Molotov cocktail was thrown in Edmonton's city hall Tuesday morning (Paige Parsons/CBC - image credit)
Police and children leaving Edmonton city hall after a security incident. Police say a man has been arrested after shots were fired and a Molotov cocktail was thrown in Edmonton's city hall Tuesday morning (Paige Parsons/CBC - image credit)

A "heavily armed" man who randomly fired a long gun in Edmonton's city hall shattering glass in the building has been arrested, Edmonton's police chief said Tuesday afternoon.

Police said a Molotov cocktail was also thrown from the second floor to the first floor, in the building's main atrium — a three-storey lobby space featuring a series of open balconies overlooking the ground floor.

The sound of gunshots halted a public committee meeting at around 10:30 a.m., forcing the building into lockdown.

At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said the man entered city hall through the parkade with a long gun capable of firing multiple rounds and started randomly firing shots.

In addition to the gun, McFee said the suspect was armed with several Molotov cocktails and caused a small fire outside of an elevator.

McFee said a commissionaire — an unarmed security guard — initially detained the man, which allowed police officers and city hall security to respond to the incident within minutes, putting the building on lockdown.

"His actions were above and beyond and for that we are grateful," McFee said of the security guard.

No one was injured.

Police have not yet released the suspect's name and plan to lay charges, McFee said.

"In addition to the firearm, the suspect was heavily armed with several hand-held incendiary devices, which we believe to be Molotov cocktails," McFee said.

"We believe this individual acted alone."

Yellow police tape outside Edmonton city hall after the building was evacuated Wednesday.
Yellow police tape outside Edmonton city hall after the building was evacuated Wednesday.

Yellow police tape outside Edmonton city hall after the building was evacuated Tuesday. (Emily Fitzpatrick/CBC)

Police say the tactical and bomb units cleared city hall and confirmed no further explosives were located.

McFee noted students from a Grade 1 class were at city hall at the time of the shooting.

Officers, including police in tactical gear, were at the scene Tuesday afternoon. Roads around city hall that were closed during the investigation have since reopened.

At the time of the incident, a CBC reporter was at a committee meeting in the main floor River Valley Room.

The reporter heard three loud bangs from the building's atrium.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi was speaking when discussions were interrupted by the commotion outside the room.

The mayor, city councillors and staff at the meeting were temporarily locked in the room. The building's fire alarm sounded soon after.

'Very loud bangs'

Ward Dene Coun. Aaron Paquette was in the room when the incident began.

"Council was having a meeting today on emergency management, of all things, and we heard some very loud bangs. The initial thought was maybe a pallet was falling because you wouldn't expect something like that to be happening," Paquette said in an interview outside city hall.

"But then security came in and said, 'You know, these are actual shots fired and we need to follow the emergency procedures at this point.' So that's what we all did."

Paquette said he and his fellow councillors focused on ensuring everyone was safe. He said everyone kept a "cool head" during the evacuation.

The City of Edmonton announced Tuesday afternoon that city hall would be closed to the public until further notice.

Police vehicles outside Edmonton city hall on Tuesday after a weapons complaint prompted an evacuation of the building.
Police vehicles outside Edmonton city hall on Tuesday after a weapons complaint prompted an evacuation of the building.

Police vehicles outside Edmonton city hall on Tuesday after a weapons complaint prompted an evacuation of the building. (Paige Parsons/CBC)

In a video statement, Mayor Sohi said his office will be following the advice of security professionals to determine next steps for city staff affected by the shooting.

"To the families, I share your trauma. Please know there are supports available for you through the employee and family assistance program as this is an open investigation," he said.

Sohi said he will not be able to comment further about the investigation at this time.

A city statement from the office of the city manager says the shooting was an unfortunate occurrence.

"City hall is a welcoming and open space for Edmontonians, and today's incident was an unfortunate and unusual change in that tradition."