Vancouver police say they used a beanbag shotgun to subdue a woman with a weapon in the maternity ward of BC Women’s Hospital on Thursday.
Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Sgt. Steve Addison said hospital staff called 911 shortly after 10:30 a.m.
“The woman was acting threatening towards staff, patients, and other members of the public,” he said. “Various people sheltered in place, so they locked themselves in secured rooms.”
When officers arrived they found the woman, still armed with the weapon, Addison said. Asked about the type of weapon Thursday morning Addison said it was not a knife.
However, police took to Twitter later in the day to say they had been called to reports of a woman armed with a knife, and that the woman was trying to use it to break into the nursery.
Staff barricaded themselves in a room with babies as the woman walked around the ward with a weapon. It was also reported that she was trying to break into the nursery with a knife, and that she had lunged at a staff member with a weapon in her hand.
— Vancouver Police (@VancouverPD) September 23, 2022
Police said the calls to 911 reported that the woman was using a knife armed with a knife and was trying to use it to break into a nursery.
In the course of arresting the woman, he said officers deployed the beanbag gun. Neither the woman nor anyone else at the hospital sustained any “serious injury,” he added.
However, Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director of Battered Women’s Support Services, says she thinks the police response in this case was completely inappropriate.
“It’s horrific. It’s actually horrific to think about a situation where the Vancouver Police Department would arrive at what is essentially a maternity ward and deploy a bean bag round at a mother who’s concerned about the custody of her baby,” she said. “It’s actually quite concerning that the Vancouver Police Department decided not to use the de-escalation team that they had deployed, it’s very concerning.”
In a statement, the VPD said that they did dispatch crisis negotiators to the hospital, but because there was an “imminent threat” officers encountered the suspect as soon as they arrived.
The woman’s motive remains under investigation, but Addison confirmed she had “previously been a patient at the hospital.”
He said the case was not connected to the Amber Alert issued Monday when a woman allegedly abducted her son who was receiving medical treatment at the nearby BC Children’s Hospital.
Addison would not confirm whether the woman had a child in the maternity ward.
“We have a lot of evidence, a lot of people we have to speak to, we’ve got more work to do to fully understand her frame of mind was, what all of the circumstances were,” Addison said.
“But when we responded, there was a serious and imminent threat to other patients, babies — because this was in a maternity ward — other members of the public and staff.”
The woman’s identity has not been released and it was not immediately clear what charges she may face.
Police initially said the incident happened at BC Children’s Hospital, but later corrected that to BC Women’s Hospital.
The Provincial Health Services Authority said it could not comment directly on the incident for privacy reasons, but that it wanted to reassure the public that the hospital remained safe and secure for patients.
With files from Toby Kerr.
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