This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
The massive manhunt for two teenage murder suspects on the run has moved to the tiny Manitoba community of York Landing after the pair were allegedly spotted rummaging through a dump nearby.
Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam Mcleod, 19, were spotted by a member of the Bear Clan, an Indigenous community watch group, and police moved swiftly afterward. York Landing, population 450, is about a three-and-a-half-hour drive west from Gillam, the area where police were focusing most of their efforts after the vehicle the two were traveling on was found burned. York Landing Chief Leroy Constant has warned his residents to “remain indoors with your doors locked” and to park all vehicles.
“ERT is conducting ground searches with dogs and heavily armored officers. Currently, heavy winds are limiting helicopter and drones,” wrote Constant. “We are urging everyone to remain indoors with windows and doors locked. Patrols of the community will be done on a 24-hour basis.”
On July 15, the bodies of Lucas Fowler, a 23-year-old Australian tourist, and Chynna Deese, a 24-year-old American, were found shot to death in a ditch next to a northern BC highway. Four days later a red truck with a camper van on the back was found on fire and this discovery led police to find the body of Leonard Dyck two kilometers [less than a mile] away. Police have not released his cause of death, but it has been ruled a homicide.
Travis Bighetty, the Bear Clan member who spotted the two, told CBC News that at first it didn’t register who he and his partner saw. They just saw two men scavenging the dump. The men who were spotted were wearing the same clothes as the suspects and were described as “tall and slender,” and ran away when spotted.
"It's a surreal moment right now knowing they could be in this small, isolated community,” Bighetty told the CBC. "The area is very dense with forest. It could be 20 yards in the woods—you wouldn't be able to see them."
The two have been on the run from police since Tuesday when police linked them to the deaths. At first, they were thought to be missing and even possible victims. They have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Dyck and police are looking to charge them in the deaths of Fowler and Deese.
The two traveled eastward to Manitoba and police believed had been hiding in the area since the 22nd when police found a burned-out Rav 4 the two were traveling in. The area they picked is an inhospitable one with muskeg, dense bush, and limited resources. While the pair apparently viewed themselves as survivalists, many thought the harsh conditions of the northern Manitoba wilderness would be too much for them. On Friday, police held a press conference in which they said the teens might have gotten out of the Gillam area with someone who helped them inadvertently.
The story gained international attention and outlets from across the world covered the deaths and attempted to gain some sort of insight into what drove McLeod and Schmegelsky. For Schmegelsky a dark but depressingly familiar picture began to form—a young man with a tense home life who found solace in online activities and had connections to the far-right. The two have been connected a YouTube account featuring a Nazi insignia, online game accounts using the banner of the Azov battalion (a Ukrainian far-right militia), and had photographs of a Nazi armband and a Hitler Youth knife. Schmegelsky's father, while adamant his son was not a neo-Nazi, did admit to having to drag him out of an army surplus store eight months ago after his son got too excited over the Nazi memorabilia. VICE also viewed photos of Schmegelsky with a gun barrel in his mouth.
"He sounded a bit depressed, you know like most ‘nerd(s)’ from the internet, spending a shit ton of time playing video games. He was fond of history but probably not really a ‘sociable’ guy I guess,” an acquaintance of Bryer Schmegelsky, who interacted with him over Steam, an online gaming platform, told VICE last week.
Other acquaintances of the young man said he would make comments about killing people they initially thought were made in jest. One friend told the Globe and Mail that while they weren’t surprised Schmegelsky would be involved in something like this, they were surprised McLeod is. Little is known about McLeod but his family put out a statement last week saying the family was being hounded by the media and that they did not know anything about Kam’s actions.
"As we are trapped in our homes due to media people, we try to wrap our heads around what is happening," Keith McLeod, Kam’s father, wrote in a statement to media. "[We] hope that Kam will come home to us safely so we can all get to the bottom of this story."
Schmegelsky’s father didn’t believe this would have a happy ending. In an interview with the Canadian Press he said he believed his son was on a “suicide mission” and would “go out in a blaze of glory.”
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With files from Ben Makuch.