Life flashed before Rebecca Malek’s eyes when a man lifted a shotgun from his lap and pointed it at her and a customer at the Hilltop Esso early Sunday morning.
“I thought I was dead as soon as I saw the gun,” she told the Review during an interview earlier this week.
“He lifts his shotgun off his lap and points it at us through his car window and ‘click.’ I just stand there. Trevor runs as soon as he hears the click; he runs behind the building.”
Despite the harrowing experience Malek keeps a sense of humour about it all as she says, “At least he didn’t push me as he ran away or use me as a human shield.”
Malek and the customer Trevor Milton Gilbert know each other well from the community.
Another employee came out of the store and was on the phone with police as the man drove away with the gun still pointed out the window as he stared at those outside.
The gun did not fire. It’s unknown at this time if the gun was loaded or it just didn’t go off.
The man arrested was a 52-year-old Olalla man who was involved in a police incident which caused Highway 3A to be closed for several hours about two weeks ago. At that time the man was taken under the Mental Health Act and treated in hospital for an unknown period of time.
Malek said the man was in the vicinity of the store three times on Sunday morning between 5:30 a.m. and 6:45 a.m. when he pulled the gun.
The first time he stopped on the roadway and yelled at a customer at the pumps.
“I was outside putting the fire extinguishers out. There was a guy getting gas. The guy stopped and was yelling at him, ‘if so and so doesn’t give me back my (expletive) he’s (expletive) dead.” she said.
A short time later the man comes into the gas station and says he needs coffee.
“When he didn’t pay for his coffee I realized he was the guy that threatened the other guy earlier. He says ‘it’s gonna be a long day,’ he’s ranting while he’s getting coffee and then he just leaves without paying.”
The final time she was inside the store with Gilbert while he was getting coffee before he went to work.
The two heard squealing tires from the gas pumps.
“I looked out and we saw him pushing Trevor’s car with his car. Trevor’s car was parked, no keys in it. He was just ramming it with his car. I tell the other worker to grab the phone and call the police and tell Trevor to grab his phone so we can videotape what he’s doing,” she said.
By the time the pair ran out of the door the man had rammed Gilbert’s car across the roadway and was continuing to push it as it hit a fence and came to a stop on a berm.
“He hears us talking and comes speeding up to us. We jumped behind the rail in front of Subway. That’s when he lifted the shotgun and we heard the click,” she said.
The man took off and headed towards Penticton where police caught up with him around 10 a.m.
“I felt better after I heard they got him and I was able to talk to the police,” Malek said.
Cpl. Brian Evans of the RCMP detachment said the man is facing five charges, four firearms related and one for dangerous driving. Police executed a search warrant on the man’s home in Olalla on Monday as well as his car, which was in custody in Penticton.
Evans said the same man was involved in a mental health incident on Nov. 28 where he barricaded himself in his home. The incident closed Highway 3A between Keremeos and Penticton for several hours. The man was taken in under the Mental Health Act and treated at hospital. Evans said police are not told how long people are kept in hospital when taken under the Mental Health Act nor are they notified when they are released.
He added on Nov. 28 the man was not charged as he hadn’t committed any criminal offences.
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