Jeff Callaghan stands halfway down a steep, well-worn dirt path pointing to the spot where an altercation Sunday afternoon ended with a Nanaimo auto shop owner in hospital with a bullet in his abdomen.
The encampment where the confrontation started is behind loosely hung police tape strung between trees on a steep embankment that drops off from busy Terminal Avenue.
Clothing and other items are scattered in the area, as well as ropes tied to trees that appear to be used to hold onto while walking down the hill.
A large tarp tent where Clint Smith, who remains in hospital, and others confronted a group of people has been removed.
Callaghan said Smith tapped him and four others to go to the encampment on Sunday to help recover a table saw and other items stolen from his shop, Ernie’s Blackpoint Repair
Callaghan, a member of the Van Isle Clean Team who cleans up abandoned camps in the city, said he suspected the stolen property was at the camp near Terminal Avenue, because he believed the people there had stolen other items previously.
At the top of the path down to the camp, they found some of Smith’s missing items, he said.
The group ducked under a metal barrier on Terminal Avenue to make their way down the steep dirt path to a large tent, where they found six men and two women, Callaghan said.
They demanded that everyone get out of the tent so they could search it for other stolen items, he said.
Smith saw his table saw and tried to retrieve it, but someone in the tent went in for a punch, so Smith socked him, Callaghan said.
Then one of the campers came at Smith, “whaling” on him with a baseball bat, and two men jumped to Smith’s defence, he said.
That’s when two people from the camp brought out guns, a rifle and a pellet gun.
“They said they were going to kill us all,” Callaghan said.
Someone managed to briefly disarm the man holding the pellet gun.
He picked it up again, but it didn’t appear to be working and the man was shoved down the embankment, Callaghan said.
Smith was hit by three bullets at some point, but Callaghan isn’t sure exactly when it happened. The group ran back up the hill and across Terminal Avenue, chased by a man with a rifle.
At some point, an agitated Smith yelled “Shoot me!” at the campers, Callaghan said.
“He was just mad. Not only did you steal my s—-, but you bring out guns and try to shoot me?” Callaghan said.
Just down the street from where Smith was shot, about 100 people packed into a parking area Thursday morning for a rally in support of public safety.
Speakers shared their frustration with watching prolific offenders released from custody, only to re-offend. They chanted “enough is enough” while passing cars honked in support.
Collen Middleton, interim chair of the Nanaimo Area Public Safety Association, said he got involved after his garage was broken into and sentimental items, including the guitar he learned to play on, were stolen.
“These emotional impacts or psychological impact are causing the stress of the entire community. And it’s just not possible for a civil society to just keep going on like this,” Middleton told the crowd.
Representatives from public-safety advocacy groups in Penticton and Dawson Creek travelled to Nanaimo to show that the issues facing Nanaimo are province-wide.
As for Smith, the 49-year-old Lantzville resident remained in an induced coma Thursday at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.
His sister said that he came through surgery well on Wednesday but still has a bullet in his abdomen. He will have further surgery to remove the bullet when his condition improves, Robin Zohner said.
Zohner said she hopes that what happened to her brother will lead to some changes in the community.
Police are still investigating. No charges have been announced.
A Gofundme page set up for Clint Smith had reached $21,796 by Thursday evening through 259 donations.
— With files from Carla Wilson
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