GORE BAY – Manitoulin residents were startled by the sounds of multiple sirens and dozens of cruisers with flashing lights hurtling westward toward Gore Bay last Thursday. The police vehicles were responding to reports of a shot having been fired at one of their colleagues.
An apparent mental health crisis had resulted in a close call for an Island Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officer when a shot was fired at his cruiser from an upstairs window as he pulled into the driveway of a Wright Street residence in Gore Bay.
That single shot from a high-powered rifle mobilized the massive OPP response that included dozens of tactical unit members, the deployment of a K-9 unit and a police helicopter and led to the lockdown of much of Gore Bay as the OPP requested the public lock their doors and remain inside until the incident was resolved.
The incident ended peacefully with the arrest of Darcy Hopkin, 43, of Gore Bay. Mr. Hopkin was arrested and charged with attempt to commit murder with a firearm and possession of a weapon for dangerous purpose. The accused was taken to Sudbury where he was to appear for a bail hearing before the Ontario Court of Justice on August 28.
The bail hearing was returned to Gore Bay, however, and was originally scheduled for Monday, August 31 but was subsequently held over until Wednesday, September 2. Mr. Hopkin remains in custody.
As the drama unfolded, neighbour Kevin Bailey watched everything happening. “I watched her all from the picture window,” he said, pointing to a large window on the front of his house.
“I heard the high-powered shot,” said Mr. Bailey. “(The OPP officer) jumped out of the vehicle and ran and hid behind the trees,” he said, pointing to some trees near the edge of the Bailey property, “with an assault rifle.”
The officer paused for a bit before motioning another police officer forward. “He ran in behind my grey truck,” said Mr. Bailey. “My daughter has it right now.”
As Mr. Bailey continued to watch events unfold, more tactical officers began to appear. “(A police officer) from the tac force OPP ran behind my deck,” he said. It was some time into the drama before an officer, one of Mr. Bailey’s neighbours, came to his door. “He let me know what was going on,” said Mr. Bailey, “asked if I had heard the shot.”
The single high-powered rifle shot rang out after the police cruiser had pulled into the driveway. Mr. Bailey said that it was clear to him that Mr. Hopkin had fired at the cruiser.
Tactical team members began emerging from the fields around the neighbourhood. “The tac team were looking around and coming out of the field, they all ended up behind the truck,” he said. “They had the K-9 dog.” By that point it was determined that the accused was still in the house.
At one point the accused came out of the home and stood on the front porch smoking a cigarette. “They were all watching,” said Mr. Bailey. “Later, his mother came out on the deck and had a cigarette.”
Mr. Bailey said he believed the OPP officers handled things well, considering the circumstances. “They could have took the young fellow out, they had plenty of opportunity,” he said. Instead, the situation was kept under control and ended without anyone getting hurt.
Hopkin family friend Amanda Third took to social media to help try and clear a few things up following the events at the request of the family, who she said were “all a little overwhelmed right now.”
Mr. Bailey offered his theory on how things developed. “I do believe he was off his medication,” he said. “He’s got a little bit of a problem.” But having lived beside the young man, Mr. Bailey did not appear particularly concerned despite the incident. “I was surrounded by tac unit,” he chuckled.
Ms. Third confirmed that Mr. Hopkin was on medication. “Darcy was on medication as he has an illness,” she posted. “But he didn’t take his meds. He has tried to seek help over and over and the healthcare system let him down.”
As for the young man, Mr. Bailey was adamant. “He’s a good kid,” he said. “I never had an issue with him. He was always out helping Ken (Wright) in the garden—something must have set him off.”
Mr. Bailey surmised that the pandemic might have played a role in how things escalated into a very serious mental health issue.
“He would only co-operate for Rodney (his brother) and (niece) Michelle,” said Ms. Third. “This man is not a menace, he is mentally ill. Please keep in mind of family members when speaking of this situation, that they may get upset after everything they have been through.”
Being front and centre during an incident that had social media buzzing, although he wasn’t particularly concerned, Mr. Bailey said, his family and friends were another matter. “My cellphone was ringing steady, steady, steady,” he said. “People from work to see if I was alright. The wife called me from Manitoulin (Transport) asking ‘what’s going on? Are you okay?’ And then the kids, one lives in Sudbury, the other lives in Iron Bridge.” All were concerned. “Especially with the stuff coming across social media, that he had five loaded guns and everything else,” he said. “I also heard too that he had shot his mother. I said ‘don’t believe everything, because (his mother) was out on the deck and had a cigarette,’ and I said that there was only one shot fired. That was after (the OPP officer) pulled into the driveway, that was as far as he got. I guess the young fellow must have been upstairs because you could see where it hit the corner of the front (of the cruiser).”
“Definitely a scary time for sure as no one knew full details as to what was going on (especially for a town like Gore Bay),” said Ms. Third, insisting that members of the Gore Bay community were never in danger. “Let’s just wish him nothing but the best, and hope he gets the help he needs.”
Mr. Bailey said he was surprised at the amount of time that elapsed before he was approached by an OPP officer to tell him what was going on. “It was almost two hours,” he said. “Three before you got alerted on the phone and TV. Some got it and some didn’t.”
At approximately 5:30 pm, phones across Manitoulin rang out with its very first emergency alert, advising residents to shelter in place. This was only Ontario’s second use of the new emergency alert system, the first having been issued for COVID-19.
Manitoulin OPP Detachment Commander Inspector Megan Moriarty and Detective Constable Matthew Colton held a 1:30 pm press conference on Friday at the Little Current OPP headquarters. Unfortunately, neither OPP official were able to supply (or confirm) many of the details of the incident, citing the nature of the ongoing criminal investigation. Asked what type of weapon was used in the incident, Inspector Moriarty confirmed that the OPP “forensic identification unit is on scene and is currently processing that information.” Inspector Moriarty was also unable to comment on whether the incident was a “hostage situation.” She apologized that “due to the freshness of the investigation, I won’t be able to answer any details pertaining to the investigation.”
Inspector Moriarty confirmed that this was the first time the provincial alert ready system was used on Manitoulin, and only the second time it has been used in the province. She noted that each individual incident is “evaluated on its own merit and how we respond is determined on the need for public safety concern that is immediate.”
Asked if the individual was known to police or is under a firearms ban, Detective Constable Colton reiterated those details might be known “at the end of this investigation.” He went on to note that “no one was injured,” and the incident came to a “safe conclusion.” He noted that the Island’s resources came together, citing the First Nations police forces and “the overall positive working relationship that we have throughout Manitoulin and surrounding areas.”
Asked if there was any remaining concern for public safety, Inspector Moriarty replied “none at all.”
“We really appreciate the community’s co-operation in staying away from the area and adhering to the safety alert that went out,” she said. “I also want to express my appreciation to our policing partners for all their support.”