RCMP will use every resource to comb harsh terrain for suspects in B.C. killings, experts say

Aircraft, thermal imaging, dogs, different types of vehicles — police will use every resource they can in a countrywide manhunt for two young men who are suspects in the deaths of three people in northern B.C., a former RCMP officer says.

Area where Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky were reported seen is 'pretty rugged,' says Gillam, Man., mayor

RCMP released these images of Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky as they looked when spotted in northern Saskatchewan. (RCMP)

Aircraft, thermal imaging, dogs, different types of vehicles — police will use every resource they can in a countrywide manhunt for two young men who are suspects in the deaths of three people in northern B.C., a former RCMP officer says.

"They will put absolutely every resource they have into finding these two suspects … to make Canada safe again," Kim Watt-Senner, who was a Mountie for 19 years, said Wednesday.

Kam McLeod, 19, and Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, are wanted on Canada-wide warrants in connection with the shooting deaths of a tourist couple in northern B.C.

The men were also charged with second-degree murder on Wednesday in the death of a man whose body was found near Dease Lake, B.C., who has since been identified as Leonard Dyck from Vancouver.

Australian Lucas Fowler, 23, and American Chynna Deese, 24, were found shot dead on July 15, about 20 kilometres south of Liard Hot Springs off the Alaska Highway.

Dyck was found dead on July 19 about 500 kilometres west of Liard Hot Springs, near the spot where McLeod and Schmegelsky's burning camper was found earlier the same day.

The latest unconfirmed sightings of the two B.C. teens were in northern Manitoba and the car they were last seen driving was found on fire on Monday near Fox Lake Cree Nation, about 760 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

RCMP have given few details about the hunt for McLeod and Schmegelsky, although they confirmed they had set up an "informational checkstop" at the intersection of Manitoba highways 280 and 290. Highway 280 is the only road in and out of Gillam, a town about 35 kilometres southwest of Fox Lake, while 290 goes north and is the only road to Fox Lake.

Police have a checkstop at the intersection of Manitoba Highway 280, which goes to Gillam, and Highway 290, which goes to Fox Lake. (Morna Scott-Dunne/CBC Graphics)

The area is "pretty harsh," Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman said on Wednesday.

"I go down south and people complain about the mosquitoes and the bugs, but it's no comparison to how bad it is here, and it's all swamp, heavy trees," Forman said. "It's pretty rugged."

Forman said aside from the rough terrain the men would likely stand out in the community of about 1,200 people.

"It's a small knit community so if they were in the area I believe that they would have been spotted.
Because everybody knows everybody here."

Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association, said he believes RCMP are co-ordinating the hunt for the two young men from B.C.

The force polices much of rural Manitoba and will probably reallocate resources to focus on the Gillam area, Stamatakis said.

"In some cases, depending on the circumstances, they could reach out to other agencies looking for support as well."

Cpl. Julie Courchaine wouldn't elaborate on whether resources from other jurisdictions were called in but said there will be a heavy police presence in the area as they continue to search for the two men.

She said RCMP are following up on all tips from the public.

'Tips are crucial'

Like Watt-Senner, he said in a search like this, planes and helicopters would be used to try to survey the area before individuals are sent in.

"You've got to find people that are capable and have some training … and are properly equipped to be able to move through that kind of terrain and remote areas."

There are logistics issues as well, in terms of supplying people engaged in the manhunt with food and shelter, he said.

In a country as big as Canada, tips from the public are vital, so a lot of resources will be devoted to sorting through those, he said.

"The tips are crucial," he said. "We rely extensively on the public to provide information."

Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman says this vehicle was reported on fire around 7 p.m. Monday. RCMP have not confirmed whether it is connected to the manhunt for Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky. (Billy Beardy)

He and Watt-Senner both said RCMP will have a package of information about McLeod and Schmegelsky, with photos and a description of vehicles they might be using.

Police across the country will get that information, Watt-Senner said.

"It'll be discussed at every briefing [with] every police officer that walks on the floor so that they have the latest information," she said.

'They're running scared'

Watt-Senner emphasized the youth of the two suspects and that they will rely on each other for support.

"They're running scared. They don't know what's going to happen."

But when suspects get scared, it can lead to negative outcomes, she said.

"They're really in the driver's seat as to how this ends."

The parents of the two suspects, and the parents of the two tourists who were killed, all want the teens to be "found whole" because "everybody wants to know why," Watt-Senner also said.

She has a message for the two young men.

"Turn yourself in," she said.

"Save some families more grief and … come out with your hands up, and let us take you into custody.


Lara Schroeder

Copy editor

Lara Schroeder is an online copy editor for CBC Manitoba who dabbles in writing and radio. She started her career as a reporter at small-town community newspapers, but her English degree and habits nurtured by her English teacher dad and grammatically meticulous mom steered her toward editing. Her many jobs have included editing at the Toronto Star, the National Post, the Toronto Sun and the Winnipeg Free Press.