Suspect still at large after gun report paralyzes Cornwall’s downtown

Parents line up outside Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School to pick up their kids on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 after school buses were cancelled. The school buses showed up but then were called off in a collective decision by the school boards and the police department. CCVS and other schools had been on lockdowns for most of the day after a man was spotted in the area with a gun, which turned out to be a pellet gun. The man and the weapon have not been located. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – A massive police search that lasted most of Tuesday and paralyzed area schools and the Cornwall Community Hospital turned out to be a man with a pellet gun.

But the suspect is still out there.

The Cornwall Police Service updated reporters on their investigation during a 4:30 p.m. news conference at city hall.

Police initially got a call around 8:50 a.m. about a suspicious man around Seventh Street and Amelia Street. The suspect was then seen around 10:45 a.m. around Marlborough Street and Fifth Street.

“After several conflicting calls throughout the day, our investigators have confirmed that what we believe was a pellet gun was discharged at that time (10:45 a.m. at Marlborough Street and Fifth Street) by the suspect. Our forensic identification team has recovered evidence from the scene at Fifth and Marlborough that indicates that someone was firing a pellet gun at a building,” Police Chief Danny Aikman told reporters.

A .177 calibre pellet was found at the scene, Staff Sgt. Chad Maxwell explained.

“We’re talking about a projectile that is approximately the size of maybe the tenth of a dime. Hats off to the forensic identification unit for locating that very minute, small piece of evidence that assisted us to bring this to a safe conclusion,” Maxwell said.

Over 40 officers were searching the city in the downtown core. Coincidentally, a platoon of officers was training today allowing the police service to “flood” the area from Second to Ninth Streets and Nick Kaneb Drive to Marlborough.

Maxwell told Cornwall Newswatch they don’t believe the shot that was fired had an intended target. “We have no information about an intended target. The initial information that there was the male was walking with it (the pellet gun) on his back.”

One of those conflicting calls was a hoax call the service received this afternoon. The chief says that was “maliciously interfering” with their investigation, pulling resources away from the initial search. Police will be investigating with the intent of lay charges.

As for the pellet gun suspect, police have not been able to locate him.

Staff Sgt. Maxwell says they have not been able to give out an accurate description because they have received many conflicting reports. “I’d love to give a description, however, based on the investigation, we have received multiple descriptions that are highly conflicting. We have been advised that is it a male…a middle-aged male, but there is conflicting information with regards to his clothing, descriptors and his physical stature and his age.”

School buses were cancelled this afternoon and parents had to pick up their kids, including ones who walk home from school. Maxwell said that was a decision “in collaboration with the four school boards.”

“All lockdowns have since been lifted and there’s no longer a concern for public safety. The safety and well being of our community is our number one priority,” Chief Aikman said.

There were no injuries.

“I make no apology that we erred on the side of caution when dealing with all the students at our local schools. It’s paramount to ensure this community is safe, ensure that our children are safe,” Maxwell said.

Listen to Cornwall Police Chief Danny Aikman’s news conference:

Listen to Staff Sgt. Chad Maxwell answer questions from reporters: