Accused Arviat handgun shooter faces four charges

Bernie Okotak, 26, recovering in Winnipeg from gunshot wound


The Arviat man shot April 27 in a dangerous confrontation with police now faces four criminal charges, Chief Supt. Steve McVarnock, the commanding officer of the RCMP in Nunavut, told reporters April 30.

Bernie Okotak, 26, has been charged with possession of a restricted firearm and ammunition, possession of an offensive weapon dangerous to public peace, shooting at a dog, and mischief, McVarnock said.

Okotak, who is getting medical treatment at a Winnipeg hospital, may face more charges, depending on the outcome of a continuing investigation, McVarnock said.

An RCMP service pistol and ammunition stolen April 10 from the Arviat detachment was recovered after Okotak’s arrest.

But McVarnock said the RCMP are not yet ready to lay charges against anyone in connection with the April 10 break-in and theft at the Arviat detachment.

And he said a lab must confirm that bullet fragments taken from the body of a dog that somebody shot April 27 in Arviat are from the stolen weapon.

The incident arose when “frantic residents” made multiple complaints about a man walking around the community with a handgun shooting at dogs.

After police responded, they tried to arrest the man. But they were only able to do so after shooting him at least once.

Major crimes investigators from the RCMP’s “V” division are looking into any possible criminal offences that may have occurred up until the time of Okotak’s arrest.

But a detective from the Ottawa Police Service will do an external investigation of the police shooting of Okotak, with help from RCMP major crimes officers stationed in Winnipeg, McVarnock said.

As for the April 10 break-in at the Arviat detachment, McVarnock said he’s waiting for the results of an administrative review into that incident.

That review, which McVarnock ordered just after the break-in, was done with help from the RCMP’s departmental security section in Edmonton, he said.

“The review has been done. We’re just waiting for the final report to be assembled,” McVarnock said.

He couldn’t say if the age of the structure made the building easy to break into, but he said the Arviat detachment had been flagged for replacement.

“It was a normal detachment in its day. It’s an older building,” McVarnock said.

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