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RCMP close Coquihalla Highway as police incident unfolds

The section of Highway 5 between Merritt and Hope was closed for about five hours as police responded to an incident near the Coquihalla Summit. The highway has since reopened to all traffic in both directions.

UPDATE:  The Coquihalla Highway south of Merritt reopened in both directions just before 7 p.m. Wednesday evening (Nov. 23) after the conclusion of a police incident, RCMP have confirmed. The highway was closed for about five hours.

RCMP Sgt. Chris Manseau said their investigation into what closed the highway remains active and ongoing and the travelling public can expect to see "a marked increase in police vehicles in the area."

Police, in their update, did not provide an explanation of what officers were dealing with on the highway, but said the RCMP "is committed to releasing a more fulsome update" on Thursday (Nov. 24).

Unconfirmed reports indicate police may have been in pursuit of a possibly stolen black truck on the highway that was ditched into the adjacent river by its occupant(s) who fled on foot armed with a weapon(s).

The Merritt RCMP is asking any witnesses who were near the area of Juliet Bridge, just south of Merritt near the Coquihalla summit between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. on November 23 with dash-camera video and have not yet spoken to police, please call the Merritt RCMP at 250-378-4262.

 

Original:

An unfolding police incident south of Merritt has the Coquihalla Highway closed in both directions Wednesday evening (Nov. 23).

Police have been responding to the incident since mid-afternoon near the Coquihalla summit about 50 minutes south of Merritt and just north of Hope B.C., leaving the arterial route shuttered to traffic from both public and commercial traffic.

“A large number of policing resources from surrounding areas are being sent to the area of Juliet Bridge, just south of Merritt near the Coquihalla summit,” an RCMP press release stated. “Any public in the area are asked to avoid that area and refrain from posting any police actions online.”

No public or commercial vehicle are being allowed passage at this time. The public should anticipate delays and plan alternative routes for the next few hours while this incident, which seems to have been unfolding since 2:30 p.m., unfolds.

A detour for Merritt is in effect via Highway 5A to Highway 3. The detour for Hope is Highway 3. According to Drive BC, the Highway is closed between Exit 183 at Othello Road and Exit 286 outside of Merritt.

Updates will be available as information is available via DriveBC.

It’s unclear exactly what police are dealing with at this time, or if it’s in any way connected to the numerous ones that have unfolded in Merritt over the past week.

Those incidents involved police responding to a shootings at multiple locations around the Nicola Valley Nov. 15, then again on Priest Avenue the morning of Nov. 18.

That afternoon police responded to a shot fired in another block of Priest Avenue and chased a black sedan to an address in the 1700 block of Nicola Avenue in Merritt, which was promptly shut down by the RCMP. The South East District Emergency Response Team (SED ERT) were dispatched to assist in arresting three suspects who are now facing hostage taking charges. The victim of the kidnapping was located, uninjured, by police. 

Then on Sunday, Merritt RCMP and their and provincial counterparts could be found in the 2600 block of Granite Avenue carrying out a search warrant in relation to Friday’s kidnapping case arrests. No further arrests were made, but police asked for the public’s assistance in locating a Merritt man named Ronald Karlson who was wanted on a Canada wide warrant.

Merritt RCMP and ERT were then seen amassing at an address in the 2100 block of Quilchena Avenue Monday morning (Nov. 21). The operation was part of an ongoing investigation into the shootings and kidnapping situation that took place last week, Merritt RCMP confirmed. No one was arrested.

Then on Wednesday morning, (Nov. 23) at approximately 1:30AM, Merritt officers responded to reports of a suspicious person around the areas of Priest Avenue and Voght Street. Attending RCMP witnessed a man kick in the back door of a nearby residence and rush inside. The home’s occupants were evacuated by police, who called the ERT to assist. After another lengthy standoff, Karlson was found inside and surrendered to police.

Karlson is being held in custody, awaiting a Dec. 2 bail hearing. Police are not yet saying how the wanted man could be related to last week’s shootings. Police have confirmed, however, they believe the Nov. 15 and Nov. 18 shootings are related to each other.

 

—with files from the Merritt Herald