02/07/2012 06:36 EST | Updated 04/08/2012 05:12 EDT

Sedgewick, Alberta RCMP Shootings: Officers Wounded, Armed Suspect At Large

Courtesy of The Community Press, Alberta
KILLAM, Alta. - A ghastly shudder of familiarity rippled through Alberta's police fraternity Tuesday with news that two RCMP officers had been shot and wounded at a rural residence.

The officers were airlifted to two different Edmonton hospitals and were undergoing surgery for "significant" injuries. Chief Supt. Rick Taylor told a news conference in Killam, a small town 160 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, that their precise medical conditions weren't known but they had been hit in the torso.

For many in the province, Tuesday's shooting evoked painful memories of the awful day in March 2005 when a self-professed cop hater named James Roszko cut down four officers while they were staking out his marijuana grow-op. Roszko then killed himself.

"It's pretty sombre in there," Taylor said of the Killam detachment. "A lot of the people that are in there tonight supporting one another are colleagues and friends of these officers. We're all waiting very patiently and waiting for good word to come back from Edmonton."

There was promising news — as the officers were being flown by air ambulance to Edmonton's Royal Alexandra and University hospitals, they were conscious, able to talk and even still doing their jobs, in a way.

"They were able to give some information en route to the hospital," said Taylor.

Details of what exactly happened were murky on Tuesday night, and the status and even number of suspects in the case was not clear.

Taylor said the officers had gone to a residence about 10 kilometres outside of Killam as part of an ongoing investigation that the small detachment had been looking into for the past week.

"A search warrant was granted for that residence and they attended there this afternoon," Taylor said.

Darcy Eskra, deputy mayor of Killam, said he was told one of the suspects in the shooting was dead, but Taylor would not confirm that.

"RCMP personnel have contained the residence and efforts are currently underway to ascertain whether or not other persons are still in the structure," he said.

"We are looking for, we believe, a second male. We don't yet know whether he is in that residence or in the area around it.

"The first male, we believe, is still in the residence. We're just trying to assess that now."

He did note that there was nothing to suggest there was any danger to the public.

Taylor described a massive deployment of manpower, saying that five surrounding detachments were scouring the area with two emergency response teams and air services.

As is mandated in all officer-involved shootings, the RCMP's version of internal affairs — the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team — had been called in.

Taylor said the identity of the officers was not being released, but one had five years service while the other had been on the job for two years.

Taylor could also not say whether the officers were wearing new and improved body armour, a suggestion that arose from the inquiries into the deaths of Constables Anthony Gordon, Leo Johnston, Brock Myrol and Peter Schiemann in Mayerthorpe.

Last September, the RCMP said it was starting to distribute the new protective gear to front-line officers. The plan was to issue more than 6,800 of the new bullet-proof vests before April 1, 2013.

The vests are to be worn by officers who are exposed or expect to be exposed to firearms that can penetrate soft body armour.

Premier Alison Redford was briefed on the case before an afternoon news conference.

"Our hopes and prayers are with their families," Redford said.

People who live in the area reported seeing at least eight RCMP cruisers and an ambulance — all with their lights flashing — driving along Highway 13 shortly after the shooting happened.

It was the second time in recent days that Mounties were seen searching the area.

Sonny Losness, deputy mayor of nearby Lougheed, said RCMP officers, including a police tactical squad, responded to reports of a domestic dispute involving a man who lives in a trailer near the community.

However, Taylor said police had never before been inside the residence where the shooting took place.