Manitoba

First Nation constable says he stopped B.C. fugitives who drove through unrelated checkstop

A rookie band constable on a remote Manitoba First Nation says he saw the men who are now Canada's most wanted fugitives drive through his community's checkstop a day before police said they were wanted in connection with three killings.

Constable with First Nation in Manitoba didn't recognize the 2 men, who were considered missing at the time

The two suspects wanted in connection with three B.C. homicides drove through this checkstop at Tataskweyak Cree Nation without stopping when they were still considered missing persons. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

A rookie band constable on a remote Manitoba First Nation says he saw the men who are now Canada's most wanted fugitives drive through his community's checkstop a day before police said they were wanted in connection with three killings.

Albert Saunders told CBC News he saw B.C. homicide suspects Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, go through the Tataskweyak Cree Nation in Split Lake, Man., July 22 after they failed to stop at the First Nation's checkstop. The two young men were considered missing persons at the time.

The checkstop is set up to prevent alcohol and drugs from entering the community of about 2,300 on the reserve, which is located 711 kilometres from Winnipeg.

Saunders said the men drove past the checkstop slowly and he caught up with them down the road where they stopped.

"I told them that you know you're supposed to stop ... and then they said sorry about that, the driver said sorry, and then I asked them where they came from and they said Vancouver," the constable, who started the role in March, said.

The constable said the two men told him they were going into the community to get gas. He said he informed them he had to search their vehicle — an SUV.

A man stands outside the usually quiet Tataskweyak Cree Nation band office amid a massive hunt for two B.C. homicide suspects in the area. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

"They kept saying, 'Sorry, sorry,'" he said, adding that they stopped their vehicle "because it was out of gas, I think."

Contrary to previous media reports, Saunders said he didn't notice any maps or camping gear in the vehicle — just two boxes and a suit.

"I didn't see no camping gear, no maps, no weapons, no drugs or alcohol."

Saunders added that he believed his partner had seen what looked like survival gear and a map in the vehicle. 

'They seemed paranoid'

Saunders said the men matched photos of the suspects the RCMP have released, but the two were wearing different clothes, adding no one was in camouflage.

Saunders recalls seeing fear in the two men.

"They seemed paranoid when I was talking to that guy there, the driver."

He said the next day, when he saw photos of the suspects and a warning from the Mounties, he was in disbelief.

"Just crazy, like something else would have happened to us if we continued searching."

He now wonders what would have happened to them had he and his partner been more aggressive.

"The next [thing] I was going to do was tell them to get out their vehicles. I was going to search them in there ... I just let them go. Maybe something else would have happened. I'm not sure."

The band constable said he saw the two suspects leave the First Nation while he was stationed at the checkstop.

"Not even an hour later they left here towards Gillam."

The hunt for the two men continues for an eighth day Tuesday.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. This past summer, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: austin.grabish@cbc.ca

now