By Kelly Sinoski and Janet Steffenhagen, Vancouver
Sun April 1, 2009
GIBSONS A woman accused of shooting an employee at a Sunshine Coast assisted care home was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Gulf War, a friend says.
And Linda Howe’s condition worsened after she was struck by a car on a Gibsons road in 2005 as she tried to rescue an injured owl, friend Cliff Morris said.
A lawsuit Howe filed after the accident claims she suffered injuries from head to toe, including brain damage, psychiatric injuries and fractures to her neck and arm.
Confined to a wheelchair and on disability insurance, she moved into Gibsons Garden Inn assisted living home, then into Good Samaritan Christenson Village.
On Tuesday, threatened with eviction from Christenson Village, Howe barricaded herself in her room before she allegedly shot an employee identified as Ken Perrier, 47.
RCMP Asst. Commissioner Peter German said Wednesday that after shots were fired inside, Howe allegedly left the building, fired again and forced a man out of his car at gunpoint.
When police ordered Howe to get out of the hijacked car and she didn’t obey, they shot her. Both she and Perrier were airlifted to Metro Vancouver hospitals and were in serious but stable condition Wednesday.
German wouldn’t say if the woman fired at police. Two weapons, a long-barrelled rifle and a handgun, were seized, but police wouldn’t say whom they were registered to.
Howe, 40, who served with the Canadian military in the Gulf War, faces 10 charges. They include three counts each of attempted murder and pointing a firearm, one count each of robbery, possession of a prohibited weapon, possession of a weapon dangerous to the public peace and possession of a weapon without a licence.
Perrier underwent seven hours of emergency surgery after he was shot in the abdomen and arm.
Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk said Perrier has a lot of support at the care home. “He has great respect from his co-workers. The people at the facility just love him.”
Christenson Village was surrounded by yellow police tape Wednesday and police were screening people going in and out. Christenson Village staff were ordered not to talk to the media.
Carla Gregor, president and CEO of the Good Samaritan Society, which operates Christenson Village in partnership with Vancouver Coastal Health, said the society was shocked and saddened by the incident.
She confirmed Howe was being moved but said she didn’t know where she was going and wouldn’t say why she was being moved, citing privacy concerns.
“But I can say, in general, that these decisions are never taken lightly,” she said. “We had plans for her. We didn’t intend to put her out on the street.”
Janyk said the only other facility on the Sunshine Coast for someone suffering brain damage is the psychiatric ward of St. Mary’s Hospital.
“Everybody was pretty stunned, almost numb, that this type of event would happen in this idyllic little community,” he said.
Friends say Howe wasn’t happy living at Christenson Village, where she was forced to go three years ago.
Irma Hohn, owner of Garden Inn, said Howe was upset when the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority forced her to move to Christenson Village in 2006.
Vancouver Coastal moved people into Christenson Village after an 86-year-old woman died after being left overnight on a commode at Garden Inn.
Hohn added she had never had any problems with Howe, who lived at Garden Inn for a year-and-a-half after her accident. “She was a very friendly, nice little lady,” she said.
Hohn said Howe told her two months ago that she was being harassed at Christenson Village.
Morris said a distraught Howe had also called his home a couple of months ago because of problems at the facility.
Howe, who Morris said was taking medication for a mental health problem, had lived for three years in one of the centre’s assisted living rooms with her cat Precious.
In 2007, two years after the accident, Howe filed a statement of claim in B.C. Supreme Court against the Insurance Corporation of B.C., seeking special damages, costs and a declaration that she’s entitled to benefits under the Motor Vehicle Act.
She claimed that since the accident on Dec. 2, 2005, she had incurred reasonable and rehabilitation expenses and continued to undergo medical care and treatment.
Her lawyer’s office wouldn’t comment, but Ben Doyle, spokesman for the Trial Lawyers’ Association, said it often takes years for such claims to go through the courts.
Howe is also seeking damages from Lacie Grimmer, whom she alleges was speeding, driving recklessly and not paying attention when she struck her near Pratt Road and Chaster Road in Gibsons.
In a statement of claim, Howe sought general and special damages and costs from Grimmer, claiming she is plagued by chronic pain, including headaches, impaired memory and concentration, paranoia, depression and permanent or partial disability.
But in a statement of defence, Grimmer argues it was Howe who wasn’t paying attention or keeping an eye out for cars on the road. In her statement, Grimmer alleges Howe had left her car in the path of a vehicle and was wearing black clothing as she stood on the road. She also alleges she had consumed alcohol and medication.
Morris described Howe as a “very kind, loving person who loved animals” but said the legal battle had deepened her depression. He said she was also a gun enthusiast and he believed she had weapons in her recreational vehicle.
“She was an avid shooter,” he said. “When she first moved here, she used to go to [the gun club] quite often.”
“Linda was a very nice person. She had a tendency to get very depressed at times, very down and she’d sort of go into herself and stay in her room a lot.”
Vancouver Coastal officials wouldn’t comment on Howe’s specific situation but a spokeswoman said anyone living at an assisted care facility is screened before being allowed to move in.
Anna Marie D’Angelo said that in order to be accepted, residents must be able to make their own decisions and be independent but need help with certain things such as eating, cooking or bathing.
The Christenson Village assisted living program consists of 60 one-bedroom suites. The rent paid by residents includes two daily meals, housekeeping and linen service, and an emergency response system. The complex also has 50 licensed complex care rooms for residents who need 24-hour professional care and three dementia care cottages.
“That place is one of the best ones we have,” D’Angelo said.
VCH spokesman Gavin Wilson said the health authority will conduct its own investigation to determine how policies and procedures might be improved.
A spokeswoman with the Ministry of Health Services said the Office of the Assisted Living Registrar which oversees assisted living facilities said it had received a complaint about a month ago regarding a woman and her potential eviction. She would not confirm it was Howe.
“The investigation of a complaint related to the eviction is still in process,” Michelle Stewart said in an e-mail statement Wednesday.
Stewart said the case is still open, so no details can be released.
Meanwhile, police will investigate the shootings of both Perrier and Howe, with Victoria police involved in the latter investigation.
RCMP major crimes Insp. Brendan Fitzpatrick said the major crimes section has 10 officers in Gibsons and three to four on the Lower Mainland investigating the police shooting. Forty to 50 investigators and experts are working on the case. Police also brought out the bomb disposal unit and police dogs as a precaution, following a request from Christenson Village.
“It is a precautionary measure based on what we have viewed inside the room that has to be examined and we’re still waiting for a search warrant to get authority to go into that room,” Fitzpatrick said.
German added the shooting was an isolated incident that just happened to occur in Gibsons.
Janyk issued a reassurance to the community. “We will heal and we will be better.”
With files from Jonathan Fowlie
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