Edmonton

Suspect, RCMP dog dead after High Prairie police operation

A 29-year-old man and an RCMP police dog are dead after a police operation in the High Prairie area that concluded Friday.

Alberta police watchdog investigating incident

RCMP had been tracking suspect Lionel Ernest Grey in Winagami Lake Provincial Park, located northeast of High Prairie. (Facebook)

A 29-year-old man and an RCMP police dog are dead after a police operation in the High Prairie area that concluded Friday.

The province's police watchdog, Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), is now investigating the incident.

RCMP Chief Superintendent Kevin Kunetzki said police had been tracking suspect Lionel Ernest Grey in Winagami Lake Provincial Park, northeast of High Prairie, since Thursday morning. 

Police said Grey was arrested and taken into custody Friday, but died later after succumbing to his injuries. 

Kunetzki said Grey, who was from the Gift Lake Métis Settlement, was wanted on outstanding warrants. 

Grey's criminal record dates back to 2012 and includes multiple convictions including assault, flight from a peace officer and breach of probation.

Grey was scheduled to appear in court in January 2022 on charges that include assault with a weapon and unlawful confinement. 

Kunetzki said there was an exchange of gunfire, but he was not able to confirm if Grey died from a gunshot wound.  

ASIRT says it has been directed to investigate an officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of a 29-year-old man. 

Police service dog Jago and his handler arrived at the High Prairie, Alta., RCMP detachment in August last year. (RCMP)

An RCMP service dog named Jago died Thursday during the operation.

"Police dogs play an important role in the work that we do," Kunetzki said.  

"They are valuable members of team. They provide specialized services to keep our communities safe and they have the ability to perform duties that we otherwise would not be able to perform."

Jago had been assigned to High Prairie with handler Cpl. Scott MacLeod since 2020.

Community impact

The mayor of High Prairie said earlier Friday that flags in the northern Alberta town have been lowered to half-mast today to honour Jago. 

"The thought behind it obviously was a canine is like a member of the RCMP. So that's why we lowered it," Mayor Brian Panasiuk told CBC News.

The police operation began when RCMP conducted a traffic stop for the man from the High Prairie area with outstanding arrest warrants on Thursday morning. 

Police said the vehicle fled from police and became stuck in the mud. At that point, the suspect ran on foot into a wooded area.

A large police operation was mounted to track down the suspect. 

"There is a huge police presence in our community," Panasiuk said. "We see the helicopters, the vehicles. They're definitely here and around. So they've brought people in to deal with the incident." 

The mayor said the terrain would make it difficult to find a suspect. 

"The dog would have been ideal to track somebody who's running through the bush like that, " Panasiuk said. 

The mayor said the community lobbied for years to get a police dog. 

"We finally got one and then this happens, so the setback is going to be huge," Panasiuk said. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

now