2020-07-29

Gerhardt Fleet Tech owner says Tobias Doucette likely hid out on the property

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>FILE PHOTO</p><p>Businessman William Gerhardt owns a number of companies in Lunenburg County, including Gerhardt Fleet Tech Service on Highway 3 in Hebbville.</p>

As fugitive Tobias Doucette eluded the Bridgewater Police Service (BPS), RCMP Nova Scotia, special service units and the Canadian armed forces for six days, the big question was where was he hiding.

The owner of Gerhardt Fleet Tech Service on Highway 3 in Hebbville, William Gerhardt, said it appears he hid in a camper on his industrial property that was awaiting an engine.

"It seems like he was there for a little while, really," Gerhardt told LighthouseNOW. "Hindsight is 20-20, but it was probably a very logical place for him to be," he suggested.

Gerhardt has been left with the task of repairing a gate allegedly rammed by Doucette from inside the yard with a vehicle he was attempting to steal. But he's grateful for the gate's role in the ultimate apprehension of the man wanted on multiple charges of assault, attempted murder on a police officer and injuring a police dog.

"We're glad the gate was robust," he said.

At around 9 p.m. on July 25, residents from across the road, Margaret and Greg Bolivar, called 911 when they saw a man repeatedly attempting to ram Gerhardt's gate from the inside with a half-ton pick-up truck with a snow plow.

"I just knew it wasn't good, and I did my due diligence and called 911," Bolivar reported to LighthouseNOW on July 26.

According to Bolivar, the man eventually got out of the truck, unable to bash through the gate and seemingly aware people were watching him. He started walking toward Saunders Motor Company Ltd. and disappeared from view.

Responding to Bolivers' 911 call, minutes later a contingent of law enforcement officers including Emergency Response Team members arrived with tracking dogs.

The police and RCMP had been hunting for Doucette ever since July 20, when the Bridgewater Police Service officer Sgt. Matt Bennett allegedly was stabbed in the neck by Doucette while the policeman was investigating a domestic dispute at the Bridgewater Hotel on High Street late in the evening.

"They went to the truck, got the sniff and they put the dogs on the trail," recalled Bolivar of last Saturday night.

And within a few hours the BPS and RCMP Nova Scotia confirmed on social media that Doucette had been captured.

What preceded this had been a six-day roller coaster ride for residents of Bridgewater and area as the police followed up on tips of possible sightings of Doucette inside and outside of the town, sometimes warning residents to remain sheltered in their homes; some residents were evacuated.

But Gerhardt said it appears Doucette had been hiding at the industrial property, even though there are people there "every day, the whole time."

According to Gerhardt, Doucette was not an employee of the company.

"No, never heard of him before. And none of our people did."

He noted that the pick-up truck used to ram the gate on July 25 didn't have a battery on July 23. If on the property, Doucette would have access to tools and equipment to sort sort it, said Gerhardt.

And it appears there was an earlier attempt to escape out the back of the property by vehicle, but it became stuck.

Gerhardt also noted the property backs onto a farm where fresh food is easily accessible. That Doucette was eating from the farm, is "certainly the theory," said Gerhardt.

"Obviously somebody will have to talk to him, but that's what it seems like on the outside," he said.

BPS Deputy Chief Danny MacPhee and Bridgewater Mayor David Mitchell held a media briefing on July 27 to answer questions regarding events leading to Doucette's capture.

MacPhee said Doucette was "successfully arrested. It was our plan all along to arrest safely, securely and he was not injured."

Bridgewater's mayor told reporters people were on the alert given the number of possible sightings. However, he said, "We have a really good municipal police force. So that was balanced with the confidence, plus all the resources in this -planes in the air, helicopters in the air. So everyone was aware, they were very aware of their surroundings, but people were going about their day, but cautiously."

Nonetheless, Mitchell said he felt a "sense of relief" following Doucette's capture.

Doucette appeared in Bridgewater provincial court on July 27 via video link for his arraignment, and had his matter moved ahead to July 30. No plea was entered.

RCMP Nova Scotia reported on July 26 they are working with the BPS to investigate charges of attempted murder, assault, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, injuring a law enforcement animal, two counts of possession of a weapon for dangerous purposes, mischief under $5,000 as well as theft of a motor vehicle.

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