BLAINE, Washington (Reuters) - A gunman in a van shot and critically wounded a Canadian border officer on Tuesday at the main crossing between Washington state and British Columbia, then immediately killed himself, Canadian authorities said.
The shooter, whose vehicle had Washington state license plates, rolled up to a Canadian security booth at the Peace Arch crossing, the busiest in the region, and shot the officer in the neck.
The wounded officer, a woman, was taken by helicopter to a hospital in critical condition, while the gunman was pronounced dead at the scene, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Corporal Bert Paquet.
Authorities said they were still interviewing witnesses and seeking to determine the motive for the shooting.
Investigators have placed a yellow tarp over the van’s right front passenger window. They planned to take the van to a forensic examination site, Paquet said.
Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Towes said he was “deeply concerned by the news of the shooting.”
“My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and colleagues of this Border Service Officer,” Towes said in a statement.
Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire said in a statement that she had spoken to the premier of British Columbia and pledged full cooperation as the investigation moved forward.
“Working closely together with British Columbia to protect our border, I consider Canadian officers an extension of our Washington family,” she said.
Brian White, a Canadian who had gone to Washington state to buy gasoline and wine and was waiting to recross the border when the shooting happened, said he heard a gunshot.
“It was just a pop, it wasn’t very loud at all,” he told reporters in remarks carried on the Internet, adding that officers swarmed the vehicle after the shooting.
Northbound traffic into Canada at the crossing was halted after the incident, Canada Border Services Agency spokeswoman Jennifer Bourque said. Southbound lanes into the United States were still open, she said.
The border crossing connects Blaine, Washington, and Surrey, British Columbia, and is on the main highway from Seattle to Vancouver. Also known as the Douglas Crossing, it is the third busiest on the U.S.-Canadian border.
Additional reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles and Russ Blinch in Toronto; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Beech