Residents of remote northern Manitoba town were locking their doors earlier than usual after word of a police manhunt in the area for two suspects in the deaths of three people in northern British Columbia.
Deputy Mayor John McDonald said people in Gillam were also making sure their vehicles are locked while the RCMP search for 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky.
The Mounties have said the teens are suspects in the shooting of Lucas Fowler of Sydney, Australia, his girlfriend Chynna Deese of Charlotte, N.C., and the death of another man who has yet to be identified publicly.
Residents are used to seeing strangers come and go from Manitoba Hydro projects, McDonald said, but they’re paying closer attention to faces since the release of photos of the suspects and word Tuesday that both may be in the area.
He said extra officers have been brought in for a search focused about 70 kilometres northwest of the town near Fox Lake Cree Nation, where Chief Walter Spence has said police would be patrolling all night.
Gillam is about 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg and is a stop on the railway line that eventually leads to Churchill, Man. There is only one major road in and out of the area.
McDonald said if McLeod and Schmegelsky are there, they are in country known for its thick bush, swamps and pesky insects, and where it’s easy to get lost.
“If they are wandering around in the bush, they couldn’t have picked a worse time because the sandflies came out three days ago and they’re just voracious,” he said Wednesday.
“I’m quite sure they’ll be more than happy to have someone find them.”
The Manitoba RCMP said in an update that they were continuing to share information with Mounties in B.C. regarding the search for the suspects.
“We have received numerous tips and information ... and are continuing to ask for the public’s assistance” said Cpl. Julie Courchaine.
“If you see something suspicious, call police. We are also reminding everyone that these suspects should not be approached if seen and to call 911 or your local police immediately.”
An informational checkstop has been set up at an intersection on the road leading into Gillam, the update said.
The bodies of Fowler and Deesem, who had been on a road trip together in Fowler’s blue van, were found on a remote stretch of highway near the Liard Hot Springs on July 15. Police have said they were both shot to death.
McLeod and Schmegelsky’s burned-out truck and the unidentified man’s body were found four days later near Dease Lake, B.C., more than 470 kilometres away from the first crime scene.
McLeod and Schmegelsky, both from Vancouver Island and on their way to Whitehorse to look for work, were originally considered missing by police. They were labelled suspects Tuesday, though investigators wouldn’t say why.
Watch: Father of suspect says son is in ‘serious pain.’ Story continues below.
They had been spotted in Meadow Lake, Sask., on Sunday before the search in northern Manitoba.
Speaking with reporters in Saskatoon, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said police are doing everything they can to track down the suspects.
“Obviously when violent incidents occur, we take it very, very seriously and we take all the necessary steps with the police and otherwise, to make sure that people can have confidence about their safety,” Goodale said.