It was one of the darkest events in B.C. broadcasting history.
And Vernon resident, professional counsellor and Morning Star Boomer Talk columnist Carole Fawcett was literally on the scene 50 years ago at CKPG TV-Radio in Prince George. On a Saturday night, Dec. 12, 1970, Roy Spencer of Fort St. James walked into the television station with a loaded gun.
Spencer’s son, Brian, was playing for the National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs and was to be interviewed that night during the intermission on Hockey Night in Canada. Except CBC and CKPG weren’t showing the Leafs game. They were not scheduled to broadcast the game that particular night.
Spencer drove nearly two hours, first on Highway 27 from the Fort to Vanderhoof, then left onto Highway 16 into Prince George and the CKPG studios, demanding that the Leafs game be put on.
Fawcett had been with CKPG for more than a year, working that Saturday night helping to get municipal election results as it was voting day across the province. Her then-fiancé, Stu Fawcett, was the station’s news director and was already at work. She arrived at 7:35 p.m.
Carole Fawcett had been on the phone when she noticed reporter Tom Haertel talking to a man at the front entrance, which had been locked for the evening.
Next thing she knew, the man Haertel had been talking to, Roy Spencer, was inside the station with a gun. The reporter had said something to Fawcett as he rushed by her and went quickly to the newsroom.
“So there I am, alone with this man with a gun and it’s an interesting study. You never know what you’re going to do when in fear,” said Fawcett, recalling the night 50 years ago with vivid candor. “I froze. I lost the ability to speak. I was in such fear.”
In a piece she wrote for the Prince George Citizen three years ago about that night, Fawcett said, “within seconds, he (Spencer) left me and continued toward the newsroom. I ran for my life to the television studio to warn them. I remember flinging the studio doors open only to find that shock had removed my ability to speak.”
It was Haertel who relayed a message to the TV production manager Fiori D’Andrea to call the police. As soon as the manager hung up, Fawcett said Spencer herded reporters John Rea and Stu McAllister and Stu Fawcett with a gun in his back, into the television studio.
Also in the studio were Don Prentice, the program manager, and studio operator Glen Snow.
“Spencer lined us up against the wall and ordered the TVs in the control room to be turned off,” said Fawcett. “That would have meant if you were watching the hockey game in Prince George, your TV would have gone black. The in-studio monitors were still on and that angered Spencer.”
Fawcett said Spencer left the station the same way he came in, through the front door, and was greeted by the RCMP who had been called. When Spencer opened fire, police shot back, killing him.
“I heard a pop and my first thought was ‘Where was Stu (her fiancé)?”’ said Fawcett. “Stu, being the newsman he was, was on the phone filing a report. I then heard three or four more pops. It was Spencer and the police shooting at each other.”
Fawcett said the radio DJ that night saw Spencer walking down the hall with a gun, locked the control room door and lay flat on the floor with the 33 and a third record playing the full side until it was done. He quit a month later.
The next day, said Fawcett, she was back at work and looked up from her desk to see a man with Spencer’s same build, size and grey hair standing before her.
“I screamed,” said Fawcett, adding she was then assigned to the station’s record library. She left the station several months later. There was no trauma counselling for her in 1970. That would come later when she undertook her own training to become a counsellor.
The whole incident inside the station lasted less than 10 minutes, said Fawcett, who married Stu the news director. They moved to Winnipeg and Regina where he was still involved in broadcasting. They later divorced.
Brian Spencer played 553 NHL games for the Leafs, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. He was shot and killed in a robbery following a crack cocaine purchase in Riviera Beach, Florida, on June 3, 1988. Spencer was 38.
He and his father are buried side-by-side in the Fort St. James Cemetery.