Police have put a lockdown on a small Manitoba town after it was reported that two young men accused of killing three people in BC may have been spotted there.
Community members have been advised to lock their doors and stay inside since a Bear Clan member spotted two men who matched the descriptions of Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, running away from a dump nearby York Landing on Sunday afternoon. Police have said they’ve moved “all possible RCMP resources” to the area and continue to search. At an update at noon today, Cpl. Julie Courchaine, an RCMP spokesperson said they have not located the suspects.
“We are not yet in a position to confirm that these are the wanted suspects,” said Courchaine. “The goal today remains to safely locate and apprehend the individuals.
“We understand that this is a trying time for the community of York Landing and that there is a lot of uncertainty. We ask them to remain vigilant, to stay indoors as much as possible with their doors locked.”
Courchaine said the Royal Canadian Air Force is assisting the RCMP in the search and that they’ve received well over 200 tips since asking the public for their help.
The two are sought by police after being connected to three murders, one of which they’ve already been charged with second-degree murder for. The first of the two incidents the teenage pair are thought to be connected to the shooting deaths of 23-year-old Australian, Lucas Fowler, and 24-year-old American, Chynaa Deese. The couple were in northern BC planning to do a three-week road trip of Canadian national parks when their van broke down along the Alaskan highway. Their bodies were found in the highways ditch in July 15.
Four days later, on the 19th, police located the burning truck the two were travelling in six hours away from where the bodies of the tourists were found. The discovery of this truck led police to find the body of 67-year-old Leonard Dyck, a former botany lecturer at the University of British Columbia. At first, Schmegelsky and McLeod were believed to be missing and possibly even victims, but on July 23 police confirmed the two were suspects in the killing.
Police have yet to attribute a motive in the killings. The background of one of the men, Schmegelsky, paints a dark portrait of a troubled man with a fascination of death and Nazism. One acquaintance of Schmegelsky said he seemed “a bit depressed like most ‘nerd(s)’ from the internet” who spent “a shit ton of time playing video games” and was “fond of history.” A friend of the pair told the Globe and Mail that he’s not surprised that Schmegelsky was involved in something like this, but was surprised McLeod would be. Schmegelsky’s father said previously that he believes his son is on a “suicide mission” and will “go out in a blaze of glory.”
On July 22, police found a burned-out Toyota Rav 4 they believed the two were driving near the small Manitoba town of Gillam and focused their search efforts there. That all changed on Sunday when RCMP got word the two were spotted 90 kilometres southwest in the tiny community of York Landing.
The Bear Clan, an Indigenous community watch group, dispatched their members to northern communities in Manitoba and it was one of these members who may have spotted the two. Travis Bighetty was sent to York Landing, and he told VICE that at first they were going door-to-door in the small community, talking to people about their fears and doing regular patrols in vehicles. One of the areas they patrolled was a nearby dump that isn’t frequented by community members very often because it’s populated by bears. During one of their last runs through the city, Bighetty said his partner wanted to see some bears to they went to the dump. That’s when they spotted two slender individuals, wearing the same clothing Schmegelsky and McLeod were last spotted in, running into the thick brush.
“During that last run, we saw two individuals that fit the description of the BC suspects, kind of like running away from their garbage dump area and where their sewage is,” Bighetty told VICE. “That initial thought was like, you know, it's a local community member who was working but then we realized this is probably serious, like, we need to go back and take a closer look.”
Bighetty and his partner went back to where they initially saw the pair but whoever they saw had disappeared into the brush. They decided not to follow because of safety concerns. Police were contacted and searching within an hour. He’s still in the location and said the feeling in the community is tense.
“A lot of tension right now,” said Bighetty. “We're trying to stop people from spreading the rumours. It's kind of a severe feeling.”
The feeling in the town are starting to take their toll on the inhabitants, said chief of the nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation.
“As the challenging work of locating the two suspects continues, our community members and volunteers are exhausted and fatigued,” said Chief Walter Spence in a statement. “The ongoing stress of the large police, military, and media presence in the community is starting to take its toll, and our community members look forward to a return to normalcy.”
The pair has chosen one of the more inhospitable locations in Canada to take refuge in. The two considered themselves survivalists and, according to constables with Tataskweyak Cree Nation who pulled them over before they were wanted, have camping gear with them. However, it’s still a difficult place to survive in. The RCMP are giving their members additional training to the members so they will deal can navigate the difficult terrain.
“It is a marsh, it is thick bush and they're saying even the RCMP were getting hurt while they're in there,” Bighetty told VICE. “There are certain areas that have been cut down for hydro lines and some winter roads make clearings, but most of it is very dense. It's very hard to get to navigate through. “
It’s not just the topography of the location which makes it difficult to call home but also the wildlife. The biting insects there are plentiful and, it being northern Manitoba, there are bears you need to watch out for—including polar bears. On the 27, Manitoba RCMP tweeted out a photo of a polar bear they spotted 200 kilometres north of Gillam.
After rumours swirled online that the two have been caught or that shots were fired, police are advising the public, and media outlets, to not share or spread unconfirmed information. Police believe the pair are dangerous and advise the public that, if they do see them, to just call authorities and not approach.
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