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Updated: A 'beautiful soul' has died: Squamish Helping Hands

The Independent Investigations Office announced it is investigating the death of a man who appeared to have a self-inflicted wound in a police incident on Friday.

Editor's note: Please note that this story deals with suicide and suicidal ideation. Reader discretion is advised. If in distress, help is available. Call the BC Crisis Line at 604-310-6789 or Squamish Victim Services at 604-892-6153 for support.

The Independent Investigations Office, or IIO, announced it is investigating after Squamish Helping Hands reported a man took his life in a police incident on Friday.

The IIO is an independent civilian agency called to look into cases where people are seriously hurt or die during an interaction with police officers. The organization is tasked with finding what role, if any, police had with respect to the person's injury or death.

In a news release published on Monday, the IIO said that officers responded to a report of a man smashing items at a business on Nov. 18 at around 11:20 a.m. About two hours later, the man was located in his residential unit.

He was in possession of a weapon and refused to exit, the agency said.

"At about 5:15 p.m., police entered the unit. The man was found to be suffering an injury that appears to have been self-inflicted. Medical assistance was provided, but the man was subsequently pronounced deceased," the release states.

"The IIO has commenced an investigation to determine what role, if any, police actions or inactions may have played in the man’s death."

Previously, Squamish Helping Hands reported that a man described as a "beautiful soul" died at Squamish’s Under One Roof on Nov. 18.

The organization, which operates the social housing facility, issued a statement that said the resident experienced a mental health crisis and eventually took his own life.

This came after a sustained multi-agency effort to provide support and resolution. 

On Friday, the day of the incident, a strong police presence was seen for several hours outside of Under One Roof on Third Avenue. 

At about 4:30 p.m., there were approximately eight police vehicles and one Squamish fire truck at 37871 Third Avenue.

Police cordoned off the area, and at least two law enforcement officials in tactical gear were seen on the facility's roof, which holds 44 residences, The Market (Squamish Food Bank), a laundry, an emergency shelter, communal eating area, an industrial kitchen, several offices and meeting rooms.

A police negotiator was also on hand. 

In the earlier part of the day, staff at Under One Roof were communicating with the individual to provide support regarding suicidal ideation, according to the Helping Hands statement. 

"The resident, however, barricaded himself in his unit."

There were no others involved or at risk during the episode, the statement confirmed. 

This is something that was also said by police on Friday. 

"We are incredibly grateful for the support of the emergency teams that came out in force to help resolve the situation. From a neighbourhood and community perspective, the large-scale response may have been frightening and overwhelming to witness."

The statement, sent by executive director Maureen Mackell said the hope was the information provided in the statement would help quell any fear or stress in the community and dispel any misinformation. 

The identity of the individual was not released. 

"I want to assure you that all emergency service members involved in the incident yesterday were extremely compassionate and professional in their response," said Mackell.

 Local RCMP provided an "attentive and caring response" to the individual in crisis for several hours before calling in additional support, according to Mackell.

"We believe they did everything they could to resolve the situation as safely as possible using all the resources available."

During the incident, there was a collaboration among RCMP, emergency services and Squamish Helping Hands "to ensure the safety and well-being of the community, the staff, and particularly our residents and participants who we care for and support." 

Staff, residents, neighbours and other participants and volunteers will have support available to them, said Mackell.

"We met this morning to debrief and to remember a very special member of our community. .. I would like to thank all the teams involved, including our own dedicated Under One Roof team, for their painstaking work during this incident," she said. "I would also like to thank the community for showing your support and understanding as we made our way through a difficult and stressful time. "

**Please note that this story has been updated several times as the story developed. 

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