Cleaver-wielding man faces multiple charges after Richmond Walmart incident
VANCOUVER -- The man who brandished two meat cleavers at a Richmond Walmart Tuesday afternoon has now been charged.
Richmond RCMP said they were called to the Walmart on Alderbridge Way and Garden City Road after the man was found in distress and wielding weapons, which eventually led to a lockdown of the area and the evacuation of the store.
Cpl. Dennis Hwang described the situation as volatile, adding the detachment's crisis negotiator, the Lower Mainland District Emergency Response Team and canine unit were called to assist.
“Though we train extensively, this situation was unique and highly dangerous," Hwang said in a release. "It is a stark reality check as to the world we are living in today. We are fortunate to have our own crisis negotiator at Richmond Detachment who was able to open lines of dialog with the distraught man. To achieve a peaceful outcome is our ultimate goal but incredibly difficult to achieve."
Mounties said after an hour and a half, the Richmond man surrendered and was taken into custody, adding no one was injured throughout the ordeal.
John Bennett Lam, 31, is facing multiple charges, including assaulting a peace officer with a weapon, possession of a weapon and causing a disturbance. RCMP said he is known to them.
Mounties critical of bystanders
Shortly after the incident, videos showing the distraught man were uploaded on social media.
Hwang said he was disturbed to see the bystanders taking video when they should have been evacuating the store.
“We strongly urge the public to leave dangerous areas immediately when directed. We cannot stress this point enough," he said. "We are putting ourselves in harm’s way to safeguard you. Don’t linger and become a potential victim or casualty."
Social media educator Jesse Miller told CTV News the desire to take captivating video can go too far.
"There is a large and evolving group of people who would very much like to capture information (more) than to find safety," he said. "In the Las Vegas shooting, we saw a number of people choosing not to cower and they would literally stand in an open space as gunfire was happening in front of them…that's the beauty of the will, some people will choose shelter and others will do what they want to get the story out there."
Miller said there is a fine balance between being able to capture an event as it happens and ensuring personal safety.
"To be fair, if you're capturing something and you feel like you're in a safe space and you feel confident recording whatever is there, I'm going to say that's an empowerment situation. But if you're ignoring directions form police based on safety, you're probably not putting yourself in a good situation.”
But the RCMP's stance is firm.
"Lacking the foresight by staying in a dangerous area or hot zone out of sheer curiosity, or for sake of capturing a video; this is not acceptable in any way, shape, or form," Hwang said.