A volunteer at a Nanaimo needle exchange found a loaded sawed-off shotgun in a garbage can and fired it, thinking it was a toy gun.
Bystanders called 911 at 10 a.m. Tuesday after they heard a shotgun blast near Harris House Health Clinic on Franklin Street.
The 31-year-old volunteer was cleaning up garbage when he found the shotgun in a garbage can, said Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien. Fellow volunteers heard him make an off-the-cuff comment that he didn’t think the shotgun was real.
“He picks it up, racks it and pulls the trigger,” O’Brien said. “He pointed it at the ground, thank goodness.”
The blast bounced off the pavement, but did not injure anyone.
Mounties in high alert responded to the area and told the man to put down the gun. He told police it was an accident.
Police seized the gun, which had no other rounds inside. The man will not face charges.
The RCMP does not know who put the shotgun in the garbage can or how long it had been there, but believe it was at least 24 hours. “This could have had tragic consequences if a child happened to come across it,” O’Brien said.
Forensic investigators will check the firearm’s serial number to see if it is recorded in any police databases and to determine whether it has been used in any reported crimes, he said.
“The message this screams is: ‘You treat every firearm as real and loaded until such time you know otherwise.’ ”