VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A suspect has been arrested after fires forced the evacuation of Langara College’s main campus April 1, and police found multiple “incendiary devices” at the school.
A suspicious fire in the science and technology building, known as the T Building, was reported just before noon on April 1, leading to the evacuation of the entire campus at 49th and Ontario.
Hundreds of students were ushered off campus by Vancouver Police, Vancouver Fire Rescue, BC Ambulance staff and employees of the college.
Police have put up caution tape. pic.twitter.com/WXyctDIGsr
— Agazy Mengesha (@Agazy_Mengesha) April 1, 2019
Bal Sekhon, a student at the college, had just finished an exam and was preparing to start studying for another when the evacuation began. She said she saw police officers wearing bulletproof vests and carrying rifles.
“They were really aggressive when they asked us to leave,” she says. “It was a little scary just because when they were asking us to leave, it was a bunch of cops with their finger on the trigger of a rifle.”
Police say that after speaking with witnesses on scene, officers determined a man in his 20s had allegedly entered the school with “incendiary devices.” They say he may have lit more than one fire before he fled the scene.
The suspect was quickly identified by witnesses and arrested in Surrey by Metro Vancouver Transit Police just after 4 p.m. He is currently in VPD custody.
Police found a number of suspicious devices when they searched the campus, the search continued overnight.
This is the T Building, one of the first buildings to be evacuated just before noon. Still dozens of police outside. It seems most of the students and staff have left the @langaracollege campus, following the evacuation order @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/uE4lx9yBeQ
— Kurtis Doering (@KDnewsguy) April 1, 2019
Adam, another student, told NEWS 1130 he was just entering campus when the evacuation began.
“There was at least one fire coming out of the chemistry wing of the campus,” a fellow student told him, he said. “There was a rumoured account of two separate isolated fires on two separate floors.”
Students and parents say a city bus was brought in to get people out of the area, but some had difficulty leaving. The 49 bus, which services Langara, was rerouted as West 49 Avenue from Ontario Street to Alberta Street was closed during the investigation.
Another student, Robin Khanna, told NEWS 1130 it was clear to the evacuees the incident wasn’t simply a fire. “Especially when they’re asking you to leave and they’re saying it’s a fire, but everybody has a machine gun with them – it’s kind of like, well, whats going on?” Khanna said. “I don’t expect an explanation right then and there, but you shouldn’t tell student it’s just a fire and then have 20 officers run in with machine guns.”
A mobile command unit was set up on campus, and the school asked students who knew anything or saw what happened to contact police right away.
At a press conference on Monday evening, Vancouver Police Constable Jason Doucette said the investigation is ongoing, but charges are expected in the next couple of days.
“We did recover at least two or three devices that had allegedly been put there by the suspect,” he said. “There were actual fires throughout. Some devices did go off, some didn’t.” There is some damage to the school because of the fires but no financial estimates yet.
The @VancouverPD Mobile Command Centre has arrived. @langaracollege is asking anyone who saw anything suspicious in the T building this morning to call police immediately @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/fPMCjp0AHb
— Kurtis Doering (@KDnewsguy) April 1, 2019
“The Explosive Disposal Unit have gone through the school, they have located devices, examined them and destroyed them,” Doucette said.
Police aren’t aware of any threats issued before the incident, and though they haven’t ruled anything out entirely, are not currently looking for any other suspects.
“It’s still early in the investigation, we are identifying his residence and we will be taking the necessary steps to ensure the public is safe,” he said.
The school, which has an enrollment of over 22,000 students, cancelled all classes and exams for the day. Classes on April 2 were also cancelled. No injuries were reported during the evacuation.