One man is dead, another is missing and a third is in custody charged with two counts of attempted murder following a series of violent events that occurred in and around Williams Lake last week.
With preliminary factors suggesting the crimes are connected, Williams Lake RCMP Insp. Jeff Pelley said Tuesday there are “a lot of moving parts to these investigations.”
On Tuesday, Aug. 6 at about 12:45 a.m. RCMP responded to a call of shots fired in the 1100 block of Mackenzie Avenue North. Upon arrival they discovered 43-year-old man suffering from gun shot wounds who later died in hospital from his injuries.
A funeral service for Richard Irvine James Duncan Jr., known by many as ‘Savage,’ is being held this Saturday at the Ulkatcho Church. Richard was from the communities of Ulkatcho and Canoe Creek. His family who is grieving his loss said they knew him as a kind person who had a travelling spirit.
No one has been charged in connection with his death.
Three days later on Friday, Aug. 9 police received a complaint of an incident at the Rudy Johnson Bridge, said Pelley.
The bridge remained closed for several hours while police could be seen searching on the bridge and above the bridge on top of the river embankments as motorists were being turned around with little information. Central Cariboo Search and Rescue arrived at about 4 p.m. to assist.
As officers were on scene at the Rudy Johnson Bridge, Pelley said a vehicle matching the description of the suspect vehicle in the homicide from Aug. 6 was observed on Highway 97.
Following a brief police chase the vehicle was prevented from leaving near Airport Road.
Three people were taken into custody.
Jayson Gilbert, 25, was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted murder in relation to the incident at the Rudy Johnson Bridge, Pelley said. The other two people in the vehicle were released pending further investigation.
On Saturday, when police announced the attempted murder charges, they also said the investigation includes a missing persons aspect.
Branton Regner has not been seen since August 9, 2019 following the incident on the Rudy Johnson Bridge.
Regner is described as a Caucasian male, five-foot-11-inches tall, about 160 pounds with blue eyes and short brown hair and a fair complexion.
Regner is known to have previously lived in Quesnel and is originally from Dawson Creek.
The RCMP would like to speak to anyone who may have information on the activities of Regner in the recent past, specifically Aug. 2, 2019 to Aug. 9, 2019.
Pelley confirmed Tuesday Aug. 12 that RCMP were actively searching the Rudy Johnson Bridge area by air, land and water for any signs of Regner. He acknowledged that foul play was a possibility in Regner’s disappearance.
Once best known for how it was built, the Rudy Johnson Bridge has also been known in recent years for more ominous reasons with at least one victim being thrown from the bridge in what is considered gang-related activity.
Pelley wouldn’t confirm whether this latest spike in criminal activity in the region is related to gang violence, however, he did note they are investigating all avenues and have the assistance of the North District and the E Division Major Crime Unit, as well as local units working on the case.
In Williams Lake Provincial Court Tuesday, Gilbert appeared by video from the police cells across the street.
Several family members were on hand for the court proceedings where Gilbert conceded to being remanded into custody until his next court appearance Aug. 28.
Crown asked for a no contact list containing the names of several people Crown alleges are witnesses and potential co-accused in the matter.
In reaction to the crimes, Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb said it certainly is concerning.
The RCMP, he added, are doing the best they can to curtail crime with the integrated crime unit and they cannot jeopardize the investigation by releasing too many details.
“They have to be very careful,” he said. “All they have let out is that the one at the Rudy Johnson Bridge and the one in town are connected somehow.”
Cobb said the 1100 block of Mackenzie Avenue North area of Williams Lake is a ‘consistent problem,’ and has been for years.
“If I ever get a phone call about something that’s going wrong, it’s usually in that area. I don’t know who owns them, but I do know there was a resident who lived a block further up who recently passed away that continually phoned and told me about incidents and things that were happening in the area.”
He urged the public to be forthcoming with any information they have that might help the RCMP.
“It is very frustrating,” he added. “The police cannot do it on their own, their eyes cannot be everywhere. We have to start taking responsibility for some of our actions if we are noticing things and not reporting them. Sometimes the slightest thing can be a tip that stops something else from happening.”
If you have any information you are asked to call the Williams Lake RCMP at 250 392-6211.