A RCMP helicopter circled overhead and two road blocks were setup while the Emergency Response Team and service dogs scoured the brush north of Ladysmith on Wednesday night.
A couple of brothers had recently arrived back home and decided on their mom’s advice to walk down the road still wearing their camo fatigue pants and reluctantly ask police: ‘are you looking for us?’
Earlier at around 6 p.m., Tylor and Karl Lofstrom left their home near the Timberlands Pub, just west of the Nanaimo Airport, and crossed the road into the brush, as they’ve done for several years, to play airsoft- a sport that involves participants firing biodegradable BBs from a non-lethal gun.
The young men, ages 18 and 23, have built a fort back in the woods where they run around dressed in full camo gear usually with four or five friends.
However, shortly after leaving home this time the young men passed a curious hunter who they chatted with briefly as one of the brothers passed him his airsoft rifle and explained its purpose.
“The police officer told us that it was a hunter that reported it because he could tell it was a real gun by the indent it was making on his shoulder and how heavy it was so they had to follow through and come out here,” mother Linda Lofstrom told the Chronicle Thursday morning.
Ladysmith and Nanaimo RCMP confirmed that they responded to a report of two males dressed in “combat gear carrying rifles” walking on Timberlands Road.
The ERT, RCMP Air 8 as well as the K9 unit all descended on Cassidy as road blocks were set up at Cameron and Vowels roads.
Some quickly jumped to unfounded assumptions on social media claiming that there had been a shooting at a nearby worship centre.
About 20 minutes after arriving home the brothers received a text from a friend about the heavy police presence and Linda suggested they check in with officers just to be sure.
“They were warned about the dangers of their actions,” said Cpl. Bob Purslow. “There was a heavy police response (from officers) who take these calls seriously and will consider the guns real until determined otherwise.”
Police asked that the young men be a bit more discreet while playing airsoft and not walk along the road carrying their guns.
In the future the brothers have also decided to place poster boards at the roadsize informing that will read ‘Airsoft match in progress.’
Linda said she understands the fear but also wants people not to jump to assumptions and know her sons are simply getting exercise.
“They’re not being troublemakers,” she said. “They’re bored and just want to get out there and do something. I think it’s awesome to be that age and want to just run around the bush rather than sitting at home for hours gaming.”