Man missing from Fraser Valley prompts massive police operation near Grand Forks

RCMP saying little about the case of Wilfred Kilgren of Popkum who was eventually found in Creston

A Popkum resident who was the subject of a June 19 missing persons report prompted a heavy police presence in Christina Lake on June 13 where he was believed to be a danger to RCMP officers.

And police are saying little about the case but say there was “not perceived risk” to the public.

Wilfred James Kilgren was first the subject of an Upper Fraser Valley RCMP missing person press release in May that said he was last seen on April 11 by a friend.

• READ MORE: Missing Chilliwack man may be travelling to Grand Forks on motorcycle

At that time police did not report the nature of Kilgren’s file, but he is charged with four firearms offences from Christina Lake from July 2017 in a case that is not yet resolved, according to information on Court Services Online.

Then on June 19, Chilliwack RCMP issued another missing person press release for the 69-year-old who is described as being from Popkum.

In both releases from May and June, police stated Kilgren was believed to be travelling via the Coquihalla between Rosedale, Grand Forks and Creston.

RCMP said he was last seen by a “caregiver” on June 12.

“Police and caregivers are concerned for Mr. Kilgren’s well-being and believe he may be in need of medical attention,” the June 19 release said.

On June 20, local police issued a follow-up stating Kilgren was found “safe and sound.”

• READ MORE: Popkum man located

But on June 13, six days before the missing persons report was issued, 20 or more RCMP officers, including members of a tactical emergency response team from the Lower Mainland, were conducting a “sensitive” operation in the Christina Lake area.

Sgt. Mike Wicentowich with the Kootenay Boundary Regional RCMP detachment was on site at the operation’s incident command at the Christina Lake Fire Hall on June 14. He declined comment at points throughout the afternoon as the operation was ongoing.

On June 15, Wicentowich confirmed the RCMP conducted a “sensitive” operation in Christina Lake. Emergency response teams from the Lower Mainland and Kelowna were in the area, and Wicentowich said approximately 20 of those members were involved.

Grand Forks Gazette reporter Kathleen Saylors was on scene for parts of the afternoon and evening. She witnessed a road block on West Lake Drive that included four vehicles and at least four officers, all heavily armed. Later in the afternoon she witnessed a police dog and handler on the site at West Lake Drive, as well as a helicopter flying overhead.

At the time, she was advised by RCMP not to post on social media, especially photos, due to the nature of the operation. She was also advised to remain in her car as RCMP were expecting an interaction of some kind, though details were not given. She was not asked to leave the scene.

RCMP declined to comment on prevailing rumour as to the nature of the operation.

At the incident command post, Saylors witnessed a dozen or more officers and about a dozen unmarked police vehicles, in addition to a large RCMP tactical unit resembling an armoured van.

Saylors heard what sounded like at least one gunshot, though was unable to confirm that there had been gunfire.

No arrest was made June 14, Wicentowich said, but he added there is “no perceived risk” to the public.

As of June 15, the emergency response team was no longer involved in the ongoing investigation and it had been turned over to Grand Forks RCMP, Wicentowich said.

He was located near Creston on June 21.

Upper Fraser Valley Regional RCMP based in Chilliwack declined further comment citing privacy concerns.

Insp. Tim Olmstead of the Kootenay Boundary Regional RCMP detachment said the detachment received notification that Kilgren was believed to be in the area and the detachment was lending assistance.

“Let’s put it this way: people react in different ways to police,” Olmstead said, in response to a question about the heavy police presence for a missing persons case. “We believed we should provide heightened security for RCMP.”

“There was potential danger to RCMP,” he added. Olmstead declined to comment any underlying reasons for this potentially heightened reaction, including medical or mental health.

Kilgren is due in Chilliwack provincial court on July 10 facing an application to prohibit him from possession firearms under section 111 of the criminal code.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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