Police pull out of Manitoba town after failed search for B.C. murder suspects
Published Tuesday, July 30, 2019 9:10AM EDT
Police are pulling out of a small Indigenous community in northern Manitoba after an exhaustive search involving military aircraft, drones, and sniffer dogs failed to locate two young men wanted in connection with three murders in British Columbia.
- More coverage from CTV News Vancouver
- More coverage from CTV News Winnipeg
- Interactive map and timeline of northern B.C. deaths
- Timeline of three B.C. murders
On Tuesday, RCMP announced they were unable to find Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, in York Landing, Man. and they would be pulling officers out of the community.
“The heavy police presence in York Landing has been withdrawn and policing resources in the community is back to normal,” Cpl. Julie Courchaine, the Manitoba RCMP spokesperson, said in a news release. “The RCMP thanks the community for their patience and understanding, and continues to remind residents to remain vigilant.”
The First Nations community is located approximately 200 kilometres southwest of Gillam, Man. where the manhunt has been concentrated for the past week following the discovery of a burned-out SUV used by the suspects on July 22.
Police had briefly shifted their focus to York Landing following a “credible” tip, but were not able to substantiate it and will now be heading back to Gillam.
During the search in York Landing, CTV News’ Todd Battis said he witnessed RCMP employ drones, canine units, ATVs, two different types of military aircraft, helicopters, and boats.
“The fact that they had so many resources yesterday based on a tip, perhaps, signals that they really don’t know where these guys are,” he speculated on Tuesday morning.
While the police focus shifts back to Gillam, officers say they’ve completed the door-to-door canvasses in the community and the neighbouring Fox Lake Cree Nation, amounting to a search of more than 500 homes.
Officers have also removed the check stop along the only road in and out of Gillam.
Police have received more than 260 tips in the past seven days, but none have established that the suspects are outside the Gillam area.
It’s unclear where the search will go from here. Battis said, at this point, it’s hard to believe the two men are still hiding in the dense bush surrounding the community.
“It was 5 C this morning, very cold,” he said. “It’s been raining torrential downpours. It’s very hot in the afternoons. The bugs are brutal. We saw black bears yesterday in the area where they’re alleged to have been seen. There are wolves. There are polar bears. It’s all bogs and lakes. If they’re walking on foot, they would have been wet at some point.”
Battis said the man who said he spotted them in York Landing said they were wearing the same outfits they were seen in earlier, which was just a T-shirt and long-sleeve shirt.
Schmegelsky and McLeod have eluded authorities for more than a week after RCMP named them as suspects in the fatal shooting of Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese, 24, two weeks ago.
The couple’s bodies were discovered on the side of the Alaska Highway in northern B.C., some 20 kilometres south of the popular tourist destination Liard Hot Springs.
The young men have also been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck, a 64-year-old professor at the University of British Columbia whose body was found at a highway pullout located approximately 470 kilometres southwest of where Fowler and Deese were killed.
As for how the residents of Gillam are dealing with the prolonged manhunt, Battis said it appears there is more frustration than fear at this point.
“I say that only because this morning we saw joggers, we saw some people walking, we saw people on bicycles, we haven’t seen that for a few days so I think there’s sort of this sense of ‘let’s get on with it,’” he said.