VANCOUVER -- Abbotsford police say a robbery suspect who pepper-sprayed an officer was shot by police Friday afternoon.

Police say they responded to a call for a theft in progress just after 3 p.m. at the Cabela's sporting goods shop on McCallum Road near Cornwall Avenue.

Two suspects left the store when they were "challenged" by a female officer who responded to the scene, police say.

"One suspect fled, the other suspect pepper sprayed the officer and then ran from the area," Const. Rob Dyck says.

"(He) seemed to have fled the scene, turned around, came back, sprayed her again and then started to assault her.”

Dyck says officers are familiar with what it’s like to be pepper sprayed because it is part of training.

“It can completely incapacitate you. It incapacitated me when I had it done to me, so it gives us an awareness of what can happen. So it is a pretty serious assault,” he says.

He says the officer then shot the suspect.

Authorities did not reveal what the suspects were trying to steal or whether the pepper spray used was stolen.

The officer was taken to hospital to be treated for injuries sustained in the incident. The suspect was also transported to hospital. Police did not elaborate on the extent of the officer or suspect's injuries.

But the Independent Investigations Office revealed the suspect was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries.

The IIO investigates all officer-involved incidents that result in serious harm or death, whether or not there is an allegation of wrongdoing.

Some witnesses reported hearing at least five bangs.

“We heard a coupe of bangs, about three bangs, we looked at the front of Cabela’s and there was a kerfuffle, a police officer and a few people. And then shortly after that, there was another four bangs,” said Melissa Mercer, who was in the parking lot with her family.

“I was worried. My kids were in the truck, I wasn’t sure what was going on. I’d seen another guy running away with his two kids under his arms, screaming and crying. So we were kind of panicked.”

Police say the second suspect was arrested nearby and taken to custody without incident, adding the public is not in danger.

People are asked to avoid the area near the McCallum Junction shopping mall as police continue their investigation.

The IIO is asking anyone who witnessed or recorded the incident to contact the IIO Witness Line: 1-855-446-8477.