John Brittain is escorted from the RCMP detachment in Penticton, B.C., on Tuesday, April 16, 2019, in this image made from video. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amy Smart

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

A vigil was held in Penticton on Tuesday night in remembrance of the four people fatally shot and to support their families, but the question of why did this happen remains for many in the community.

John Brittain, a retired civil engineer who worked in the City of Penticton development services department from 2011 to 2016, is charged with one count of second-degree murder and three counts of first-degree murder related to the shooting spree on Monday.

READ MORE: Four dead, one in custody following Penticton shooting spree

Carl Bartlett, who lived in the same building and right beside Brittain, told the Star Vancouver he heard one gunshot before a short pause and two more quick shots around 10:30 a.m. on Monday morning. He thought it had come from a nearby business, but when he went outside a half hour later he was told to return to his home by RCMP.

Brittain’s landlord, Tony Friesen, was working in one of the units of the building when he heard shots. Shortly before that he saw the first person Brittain is accused of shooting, Rudi Winter, pruning a tree at a residence across the street.

A person working at a nearby business also thought he had heard a noise from a neighbouring shop, but that turned out to be the gunshots. He said he saw a man walking away “casually” with a gun in his hands after the noises. A neighbour also told the Western News she heard what she thought was gunshots and then looked out on her balcony and saw a man on the sidewalk “angrily yelling a couple of phrases.”

Shortly after the first shooting, three people were shot and killed at two residences next door to each other on Cornwall Drive. An hour after the first shooting RCMP said John Brittain arrived at the detachment in his vehicle, unarmed, and turned himself in.

READ MORE: Video — Penticton unites for candlelight vigil honouring shooting victims

Friesen told the Star that Brittain had just a cot in his apartment, along with a guitar, a bicycle and a keyboard. He also said Brittain wouldn’t park his car in the driveway and would sometimes park it far down the road. He said the black Volkswagen Jetta was something Brittain worried that “riff raff” would break into. Bartlett also said he had been in Brittain’s suite a few times and had never seen a gun.

According to land titles, the Cornwall Drive properties where two women and another man were fatally shot belong to Darlene Knippelberg and a couple, Susan and Barry Wonch. RCMP have not confirmed the names as those people being the deceased, however a source confirmed with the Western News that Knippelberg is one of the deceased.

David Folstad said he has known Brittain for five years through a community organization and as his neighbour, and is in “absolute shock”

Folstad lives just off of Cornwall Drive on Murray Drive, and said he had no idea Brittain was estranged from his spouse (Katherine Brittain), and living at another location. She lives across the street from the residences where the three shootings took place. Folstad said he would often see them out on walks together.

“This is a 68-year-old that is a member of the community that had never been on the map before, now all of sudden everyone is looking at him wondering what happened. I’m saying the same thing, what happened?” said Folstad, explaining that while he wasn’t close friends with Brittain, he knew him well enough to always stop and have a conversation with him when they saw one another.

READ MORE: Four victims identified in deadly Penticton shooting spree

He also said he did not know the neighbours that lived in the houses taped off by police, but Folstad had occasionally seen their garage doors open and people working on various projects.

City of Penticton bylaw confirmed to the Western News that there had been several complaint calls on Cornwall Drive. Some of these included drainage issues, woodburning smoke, landscaping and operating a home business without a licence.

The Western News has also reached out to families of the victims but has not had any responses, except for the daughter of Winter.

“My dad was a peaceful soul, a kind and gentle man. He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” said Tanya Steele.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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