A 29-year-old Indigenous man is dead after a two-day manhunt in northern Alberta but police are refusing to say how, citing an active investigation by the province’s police watchdog.
Canada’s federal police force the RCMP and a nearby town are honouring a police service dog that died in the same incident—including lowering flags to half-mast and a social media tribute—but are not saying how the dog was killed either.
On Thursday morning, police said they tried to stop a vehicle driven by Lionel Ernest Grey, from the Gift Lake Metis Settlement, entering Winagami Provincial Park four hours northwest of Edmonton. The driver allegedly drove off and then left on foot into a wooded area when the vehicle got stuck in mud.
Police went after the suspect with the service dog, Jago, which they say was killed during an “exchange of gunfire.” Police will not say if the suspect fired at police, or if it was the suspect or an officer who shot the dog.
RCMP enlisted air services from Edmonton and Calgary, as well as neighbouring provinces B.C. and Saskatchewan, to aid in the search for Grey, who was arrested the following day around noon. At a Friday press conference, Chief Supt. Kevin Kunetzki said the man “had serious injuries at the time of his apprehension” and died shortly after, following medical service by police and EMS.
He said Grey was wanted on outstanding warrants for “persons crimes” but would not specify what those crimes were. RCMP spokesperson Fraser Logan told VICE World News Monday that “persons crimes” can range from assault to homicide, but Grey was not wanted for homicide.
Logan said RCMP cannot give more details because the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating the incident. ASIRT, made up of police and civilian members, independently investigates incidents involving Alberta police officers that have resulted in serious injury or death.
Court records show Grey had a trial scheduled to start next year on five charges related to an alleged sexual assault that took place in January 2020 in the Edmonton area.
Shortly after revealing Grey’s death, Alberta RCMP posted a photo collage tribute to the dog, Jago, on its Facebook page. The neighbouring town of High Prairie lowered its flags to half mast to honour the dog, who was handled by Cpl. Scott MacLeod.
High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk said the town, which lobbied for six years to get a police dog and handler, “viewed the death of the dog much like we would a human member of the RCMP.”
Some media reports also focused heavily on the dog’s death. Global Calgary was slammed on social media for extensively quoting police officers mourning the dog in its story and using the headline, “RCMP dog killed, man dead after police shooting in northern Alberta.”
In a separate incident that eerily resembled the High Prairie case, RCMP shot and killed a man and a police dog was injured in the Cold Lake area, about three hours northeast of Edmonton, Sunday evening.
RCMP said in a press release Monday they responded to a dispute in a vehicle that led officers and a service dog to chase the suspect, who fled on foot. Police said a “confrontation” occurred, during which an officer fired a gun and the suspect was fatally wounded. A police dog was injured and taken to a vet with “non-life-threatening injuries.”
An RCMP spokesperson said Monday they are not giving further details on the Cold Lake death, as it is also being investigated by ASIRT.
No human police officers were injured in either incident.
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