Drive-by shootings trigger school and playground alerts in Prince George, B.C.

© Catherine Hansen/CBC About 2,500 students at three schools were locked inside after a drive-by shooting and police chase in Prince George Thursday. Police also brought children playing at this playground into the school for safety.

About 2,500 students at three schools — plus several children at a neighbourhood playground — were affected by a drive-by shooting Thursday linked to the drug trade in Prince George, B.C.

The outer doors at Duchess Park secondary, D.P. Todd secondary, and Heritage elementary were locked shortly after noon as students, teachers and administrators were placed under “hold and secure” status.

The school safety measures were taken in response to a drive-by shooting at a house close to D.P. Todd secondary and Heritage elementary shortly after 11:35 a.m.

The house had already been targeted twice by gunfire — most recently at about 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

RCMP Cpl. Craig Douglass blames the latest incident on an ongoing turf war over the drug trade.

In recent weeks, that turf war has sparked numerous drive-by shootings, and an arson attack.

But this is the first gun crime committed in broad daylight near schools and playgrounds.

Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall said he’s “deeply concerned.”

“We’ve seen an escalation [in gun violence] in the last month or two,” he said. “It’s very alarming.”

a group of people standing in front of a house: RCMP officers stand outside the house that was the target of drive-by shooters on Thursday. © Andrew Kurjata/CBC RCMP officers stand outside the house that was the target of drive-by shooters on Thursday.

All three suspects in Thursday’s drive-by shooting were arrested after officers chased their car across town, according to RCMP.

The car crashed through a fence near Duchess secondary, and the suspects fled, police said. One suspect was apprehended after being tracked by a police dog.

RCMP officers rushed children at a nearby playground to safety, including a nine-year-old boy who spoke to CBC News with permission from his mother.

The boy had been playing on the swings near Duchess Park secondary when the police arrived, he said.

“The police all came and surrounded us and everyone had to go inside,” the boy said. “No one can look out the window. We were just confused. So we just went inside … to calm down.”

Several witnesses at Duchess secondary told CBC News they heard a bang that sounded like a gun shot.

Douglass said he’s confident there was no gunfire near the school, and that the sound was caused by the suspects’ car hitting the curb and crashing through a fence.

Mayor Hall said he’s concerned about the “trauma some children may be facing” after the most recent incident.

In a letter sent to parents from the affected schools, officials acknowledged “this kind of incident can be upsetting for students.”

Source: CBC News