Nuclear Response Unit joins search of White Rock suite

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An anonymous tip about chemicals that may pose "a significant risk to public safety" led police to descend on a White Rock apartment building last week.

Const. Janelle Shoihet confirmed Wednesday that local officers, along with members of the Explosive Disposal and Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear Response Unit, the Lower Mainland Integrated Forensic Identification Services, Emergency Response Team and White Rock firefighters executed a search warrant in the 15100-block of Prospect Avenue on Jan. 24, following a tip the day before.

Chemicals seized have been sent to a lab for analysis.

One man arrested at the scene remains in custody.

Neighbours who contacted Peace Arch News this week to ask about the incident said they saw numerous police cars, a hazardous-materials truck and a bus. Prospect Avenue was blocked off by police, and restoration trucks were seen the following day.

Shoihet told PAN that police "were anticipating the worst" when they entered the third-floor suite, and had the bus ready in case it was deemed necessary to evacuate.

"We're always going to deem it the highest priority and take all precautions," she said. "We're going to call in all the forces that we need in order to make it as quick and efficient as possible."

While it was not necessary to evacuate, firefighters have deemed the suite uninhabitable, and it remains locked down, Shoihet said.

Police returned to the building Tuesday evening after reports of someone inside the suite, Shoihet said.

Area residents Ron and Mereda Preece said they were surprised details were not made public last week.

The incident "took place for hours," Ron Preece said Tuesday.

"We'd like to know what's going on in our neighbourhood."

Shoihet said the situation was not one that required immediate public notification.

"If there had been a risk, you can rest assured that we would have been on top of it," she said.

Sgt. Manley Burleigh described the incident as "a sensitive ongoing investigation."

A 34-year-old White Rock man has been charged with breach of probation in connection with the search and seizure, and remains in custody. Further charges are possible.

Hamish Sutherland is to appear in court Thursday.


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