Highland Tower residents got a rude awakening Oct. 28 when a man set off the fire alarm and then pulled a five-year-old child away from his mother as they made their way out of the building.
The fire alarm was pulled around 8:20 a.m. and police arrived approximately 30 minutes later to apprehend the man who set off the alarm.
Thompson RCMP detachment Insp. Brian Edmonds said officers arrested 33-year-old Shawn Packo. He is charged with assault, offences related to pulling a fire alarm and adult abduction of a person under 14.
A fifth-floor Highland Tower tenant, who wishes to remain anonymous, witnessed the man who pulled the fire alarm’s erratic behaviour moments before the attempted kidnapping took place.
Not only did he pull the fire alarm on the fifth floor multiple times after setting it off at the building's entrance,but this resident said he tried to grab her son as well.
“He was smaller, so I didn’t feel threatened by him. He seemed more afraid, but he was grabbing at my son.”
The man repeated this action a second time in the stairwell and managed to tear a five-year old child away from his mother as they attempted to exit the building.
“He was really squeezing him tight, which could have hurt him,” said the woman. “The child was just terrified, just screaming at the top of his lungs. And the mom was screaming at the top of her lungs.”
Luckily, some fourth floor tenants managed to intervene at this point and remove the child from the man’s grasp.
“We ended up tackling him outside the door here. We held him and I got my son to go see if anybody else was available,” said tenant Rob Flamand. “Before we could really do much while still holding him down the firefighters came through the elevator.”
Flamand and the firefighters held the man down until police arrived.
Highland Tower resident manager Teresa Bartz believes that the man didn’t know the family or really understand what he was doing, since it seemed to her that he was under the influence of some kind of drug.
“He wasn’t in a proper mental state, that’s for sure,” she said. “He was definitely delirious. He really thought somebody was following him. Even on the video, when we watched him come in, he kept looking out the door. He thought he was being chased.”
While the mother of the temporarily abducted child was disturbed by the incident, Bartz said she was in a much better state of mind when she talked to her two days later.
“She said it was very traumatizing for her and her son. She said her son has calmed down a bit, but he’s still rather shaken.”
Edmonds said the family didn’t report any physical injuries from this incident.
This isn’t Bartz’s first encounter with the man, who he said pulled the building’s fire alarm around a year ago.