At first glance, the parking lot of Villa Nova Plaza in Manuels on Wednesday looked almost like business as usual.
Behind the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, the scene told a different story, however. A large section of the Home Hardware parking lot was still cordoned off with police tape and several police cruisers were parked around the building — lights flashing and officers milling about.
Many of the shops — including the Home Hardware — remained closed Wednesday following a double murder that took place at the Villa Nova Medical Clinic Tuesday evening.
Paul Smith was walking back into the West Side Charlie’s Wednesday, several tickets from the slot machines in his hand that he didn’t have the opportunity to cash in the night before.
He was playing the machines Tuesday evening when more than half a dozen police officers came through the door, one with his sidearm out.
Patrons were told the place was shutting down with all other area businesses and they had to leave immediately. The officers searched the bar.
“I knew something happened, but I couldn’t tell what or where. I thought the pharmacy got hit again,” Smith said. “When I seen the gun out, I knew something really (bad) had happened. They wasn’t coming for somebody down there stealing drugs or anything like that. It was more serious.”
The RNC was called to the scene at 7:10 p.m Tuesday. The plaza was evacuated and the RNC advised residents of C.B.S. to stay inside and lock their doors. There were two people dead and at that point the police weren’t sure if they were looking for more than one suspect or what the motive was.
Dr. Eslier Gamu Aguilar, owner of the Villa Nova Medical Clinic where the murders took place, was not at work at the time. He told The Telegram he received a call saying there had been a shooting and two people were hurt.
Reached at home hours after the shooting, Aguilar said he’d been unable to speak to his staff.
“I tried to contact them, but I was told they were held for interrogation,” he said, adding that despite media reports, he wasn’t told that two people were killed.
“Nobody told me that. I heard that from you guys, from the media. … The police haven’t talked to me at all.”
Manuels resident Laura Mason, who like many others in the area was stuck in traffic, said her 14-year-old son had called her at work. He said he had heard a couple of gunshots and he was scared. She told him to lock the doors, and she left to try to make it home through the maze of police presence.
Jerry Lazarov, co-owner of Pronto Pizza in Villa Nova Plaza, was filling a large order by himself Tuesday evening. Around 7:30 he saw several police cars and an ambulance drive through the parking lot.
“I was almost done when two young policemen walked in and they had their weapons in their hands and they asked if I had heard something.”
Lazarov hadn’t heard anything. The police looked around his restaurant and checked the bathroom. He was told to leave immediately.
In his car, he saw that the main road was blocked and a rubber blockade had to be removed in order for him to get out.
“I had my emergency lights on and was just praying. I just very slowly took off so that they don’t assume that I’m somebody who they’re looking for.”
It was more like something you would see in the movies, Lazarov said. It was a sentiment repeated by many people in Villa Nova Plaza Wednesday as the investigation continued.
The manhunt continued through Tuesday night. Wednesday morning started with armed RNC tactical unit officers surrounding a house on Chaytor’s Road in Chamberlains. The RNC was acting on a tip related to the murders, although they left the scene without incident.
Shortly thereafter it was revealed that another body had been found that morning at the Anglican Cemetery on Kenmount Road. It was the body of the RNC’s person of interest in the double-murder, which had suddenly become a double-murder suicide.
The RNC did not release the name of the 43-year-old man found at the cemetery. They did say he was known to both victims — a 35-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man — shot at the medical clinic.
They also said the man found at the cemetery and the female victim had been in a relationship at an unspecified previous time. The handgun believed to be used in the shootings was recovered.
A neighbour of the house police had surrounded on Chaytor’s Road didn’t want to be identified, but said the residence the police had been interested in was that of the man found at the Anglican Cemetery.
The neighbour said the man lived there with his mother and was something of a handyman who fixed appliances. He had even fixed an appliance for this particular neighbour at one point.
Lazarov of Pronto Pizza heard the name of the man found in the Anglican Cemetery and believed he was the same person who had worked for him about 10 years ago delivering pizzas.
“Smart guy. He was a little bit strange, but most of us are a little bit strange sometimes,” Lazarov said, adding that the man had a girlfriend at the time who was often with him in the car as he made his deliveries.
In the late morning a hearse pulled out of the Anglican Cemetery, followed about 20 minutes later by a flatbed truck with a vehicle on it. The vehicle was covered by a tarp.
“Right now it’s still too early to tell what the full extent of the motivation behind this incident was,” Const. Murphy said Wednesday afternoon.
For Paul Smith, walking out of West Side Charlie’s with his winnings from the night before finally cashed, a conclusion to the day’s events wasn’t enough to rest his mind completely. The bar is only metres from the location where the shootings took place the night before. The medical clinic is where his doctor works, and Smith is often in to see him. He wondered aloud if people can truly feel safe anywhere.
“Not anymore,” he said.