Gillam, Man. on high alert as manhunt descends on the area
A normally quiet and safe northern Manitoba town has been on edge as the manhunt for two teenagers wanted in connection to three deaths in British Columbia has descended on the community.
Gillam, Man., a community of 1,265 people more than 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg, is one of the last towns before the northbound highway ends. The community has been on a near-lockdown since police found the burned-out Toyota Rav 4 that Bryer Schmegelsky, Kam McLeod had used earlier this week to cross the prairies.
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Schmegelsky and McLeod are wanted in connection to three deaths in northern British Columbia: Australian Lucas Fowler, his American girlfriend Chynna Deese and Leonard Dyck of Vancouver.
Police have been searching for the suspects’ whereabouts for the past several days, which has now converged in the area of Gillam.
"It's crazy,” Roman Henderson, a Gillam resident, told CTV News Winnipeg. “(We) haven't had something like this happen in town before."
Henderson said he slept on the couch last night alongside his gun for protection.
The RCMP said on Wednesday it is increasing the police presence in Gillam and the nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation to help with the search. Officers have also set up a police checkpoint along the only road in and out of town.
Residents have been told to lock their doors and their vehicles as a precaution.
"Normally we don't lock our doors, it’s a safe town,” said Gillam resident Heather Bonne. “Last night we locked our doors."
Gillam Mayor Dwayne Foreman has been telling people to travel in pairs and keep an eye out for anyone suspicious.
“Each person is doing their own lockdown for themselves,” he told CTV News Channel.
Billy Beardy, who first spotted the burning vehicle on Monday evening, said he was surprised to find out the SUV belonged to two teenagers wanted for the deaths of three people thousands of kilometres away.
“My wife is kind of freaked out and everyone around the community is on edge,” he said.
Beardy said he could see camping equipment in the burning SUV, leading to speculation the two suspects decided to venture into the woods.
The town’s deputy mayor, John McDonald, told The Canadian Press that if that’s the case, McLeod and Schmegelsky are unlikely to last long in an area known for its harsh insects and thick brush.
"If they are wandering around in the bush, they couldn't have picked a worse time because the sandflies came out three days ago and they're just voracious," he said. "I'm quite sure they'll be more than happy to have someone find them.”
Foreman added a police search through the woods would also prove difficult as the area is covered with patches of swampland.
“It’s not going to be easy tracking for the officers if they're searching for them in the forest area,” he said. “I’d like to think that they’re no longer here, but at the same time, I’d like to see this finished and see them apprehended.”
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Winnipeg's Jeff Keele