Manitoba

Mounties in Manitoba, B.C. estimate their share of summer manhunt cost $1.5 million

Mounties in Manitoba and B.C. spent about $1.5 million combined on last summer's hunt for two fugitives wanted for three B.C. killings.

Should have offered more support for Gillam-area residents, including mental health experts: MacLatchy

RCMP officers stand near the place where the burnt-out vehicle used by two B.C. fugitives was found in a massive two-week police search that cost nearly $800,000. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Mounties in Manitoba and British Columbia spent about $1.5 million combined on last summer's hunt for two fugitives wanted for three B.C. killings.

B.C. RCMP estimate they spent $750,000 to investigate the triple homicides committed by Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18. In an email to CBC, Sgt. Janelle Shoihet said the costs include the major crime investigation, the specialized support services, overtime and logistics.  

Meanwhile, Manitoba RCMP spent less than $800,000 on the expansive search in the province's northern wilderness — a cheaper price tag than the province's top Mountie was banking on.

"I'll be honest with you, I was expecting about a million bucks, and that's kind of what I had in my mind," RCMP Assistant Commander Jane MacLatchy said in an interview. 

"That was the amount that I was willing to go to on this to get it done."

B.C. RCMP Sgt. Janelle Shoihet told the public on July 25 that Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, previously considered missing persons, are now wanted in relation to 3 homicides in Northern B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The military said Wednesday they were still finalizing their bill to deploy two aircraft and their personnel.

The manhunt in Gillam, Man., which ended with the discovery of the suspects' bodies on Aug. 7, lasted around 16 days.

In videos before McLeod and Schmegelsky killed themselves, the lifelong friends admitted to the murders of botanist Leonard Dyck, American Chynna Deese and her Australian boyfriend Lucas Fowler.

Police descended on Gillam once officials realized a burned-out vehicle had been driven by the two suspects.

Manitoba's top Mountie shared insights into the police hunt at a Winnipeg disaster management conference on Wednesday.

Duo likely died, police thought

By the end of the first week, she said RCMP believed the suspects either fled — which seemed improbable because there were no credible sightings outside the Gillam area — or had died.

"If they were out there, alive somewhere, we had no reason to believe the killings were going to stop."

MacLatchy said community members were a tremendous help, but at the same time, those same people, gripped by fear and overwhelmed by the international attention, needed support themselves.

In hindsight, she wishes the RCMP was helping people to process what happened — not only after the manhunt, but during it.

"It's not a RCMP responsibility to bring in resources for mental health," MacLatchy said, "but I certainly would have liked to facilitate or help the community get the supports they needed.

She also said the RCMP should have had media spokespeople on site in Gillam to handle questions.

MacLatchy added police was fortunate to have a Manitoba Hydro generating station in the Gillam area to serve as accommodations for their members.

Dinners to thank community

She credited the community for their guidance and said the RCMP would hold appreciation dinners in the Gillam area and Winnipeg to thank all individuals for their help.

"I am so thankful to this day that we were successful in that search, because imagine if we hadn't found them," she said.

"The people of Gillam, the people in that whole northern Manitoba area … would still be afraid of who's walking around in the woods and they'd still be locking their doors — some of them probably still are."

Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman told the conference the worry among residents persists.

RCMP confirmed this RAV4 on fire. located near Gillam, Man., is connected to the manhunt for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky. (Billy Beardy)

When one man realized the suspects were spotted nearby, he started sleeping on his couch at home with a gun nearby. 

"He no longer sleeps with a gun, but he still cannot sleep in the bed. He still needs to be in the living room to protect his family," Forman said. "The emotions are still there."

The cost of the manhunt to the Manitoba RCMP is still being finalized, but it's "expected to be well under $800,000," spokesperson Robert Cyrenne said in an email.

Significant expenses include overtime costs and backfilling the positions of employees sent to the Gillam area, MacLatchy said. The RCMP paid Manitoba Hydro around $40,000 for overnight accommodations at a generating station and other needs.

"Even though we were putting a lot of resources on this thing, we were very cognizant that we were spending taxpayers' money," MacLatchy said. "We wanted to make sure that we got the best bang for the buck."

A still taken from surveillance footage released by the RCMP shows Kam McLeod, left, and Bryer Schmegelsky leaving a store in Meadow Lake, Sask., on July 21. (RCMP)

Forman said he tried his best during the chaotic search to keep his community at ease, but said it was a "huge lapse" in judgment that it took 10 days to hold a community meeting.

After his speech to the audience of municipal officials, one person approached a microphone at the Winnipeg ballroom.

"I happened to be at your town hall. You sell yourself short, my man," he said to applause.

About the Author

Ian Froese

Reporter

Ian Froese is a reporter with CBC Manitoba. He has previously worked for newspapers in Brandon and Steinbach. Story idea? Email: ian.froese@cbc.ca.

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