A father made a quiet, poetic plea for his fugitive son to return to his rural Alberta home, where two Mounties were shot and wounded and a family member was found dead earlier this week.
“Sawyer, we love you. You know that,” Ray Robison read haltingly from a piece of paper outside the RCMP detachment in Killam on Thursday. His wife and a friend stood by his side as he spoke to a throng of news cameras.
“We want to have you back and we know how hard it may be for you to come back to us.
“Swallow your hurt and listen to the quiet world.”
Sawyer Clarke Robison, 27, has been on the run since Tuesday afternoon, when the officers were shot while executing a search warrant for a gun on the family farm, about 160 kilometres southeast of Edmonton.
RCMP said a previous domestic violence incident in a nearby town led them to the search.
Four officers arrived at the property and shortly after constables Sheldon Shah and Sidney Gaudette walked into the house, shots were fired. Constables Shah and Gaudette were hit, but managed make it back outside where they were taken away.
Police say Mr. Robison was inside the house during the shooting. He drove away in a black pickup truck.
His uncle Brad Clarke was found dead inside following a lengthy standoff. Several weapons were seized from the property.
Mr. Robison was initially considered a person of interest and did not face charges, but late Wednesday RCMP charged him with two counts of attempted murder and issued a Canada-wide warrant for his arrest.
Sgt. Patrick Webb explained that the charges allow officers to arrest Mr. Robison on sight. He may or may not have fired the shots that hit the two Mounties but can still be charged as a participant of a crime.
RCMP consider him a high risk because he may be armed with long-barrelled weapons.
Sgt. Webb said investigators have no idea where Robison might be. There’s no indication he has strayed far from the community, but could have travelled far in the past two days.
He said they want to talk to Mr. Robison to get his version of what happened – and why.
They hope his father’s plea will persuade him to turn himself into police, said Webb. Family members are worried that Mr. Robison is stressed and on his own.
“Their information may have a big impact on being able to get him to realize that there is an out in this situation, that violence doesn’t have to stay in his status. Simply, he can resolve it by approaching us and we can resolve it peacefully.”
Several residents of Killam and the nearby community of Sedgewick echoed pleas for a peaceful resolution.
“I wish he’d come in and explain what happened, so that nobody else gets hurt, so he doesn’t get hurt, so no other police get hurt,” said Sharleen Chevraux.
“There’s been enough pain already. We don’t need anymore.”
Ms. Chevraux, the owner of Crafty Creations in Killam, said Mr. Robison’s mother was in her shop talking about art and quilts when the shootings took place. Carol Clarke is a member of the Battle River Art Club who sells her paintings in the store.
“I just can’t imagine the anguish she’s going through with her son being hunted,” Ms. Chevraux said. “As a mother, I would be just beside myself, and having lost my brother, I just feel terrible for her.”
Several residents describe the entire family as artistic, friendly and quiet – “normal farm people” – and they’re shocked they could be wrapped up in such a mess.
“All I know is if that family was involved, something had to go terribly wrong,” said Cheryl Stewart. “None of this makes sense.”
Carol and her brother Brad were two of six children raised on the farm, home to several generations of Clarkes. Carol sings in the United Church choir and her husband works as an oilfield operator. There are two homes on the property; Sawyer Robison and Brad Clarke live in the bigger bungalow while Mr. Robison’s mother and father live in a smaller house.
Brad Clarke ran an organic farm on the property and was a genuinely nice fellow who’d give you the shirt off his back, said Ms. Stewart.
Sawyer Robison worked as a professional photographer for his business, Warthog Photography, specializing in the arts and portraiture. He also played drums in a band with his family and they often jammed with other musicians and played at family functions.
Some people said they now find themselves torn between being friends of the family and friends of the injured Mounties.
Constables Shah and Gaudette, whose fathers were both RCMP officers, recently started their careers in the force with their first posts at the Killam detachment.
They were each shot in the torso and underwent surgeries in Edmonton. Sgt. Webb said it will be a long road to recovery for them.
Wayne Dame, who owns the liquor store in Sedgewick, said he’s glad the officers survived.
“I look up to them for having the gumption to do their job,” he said. “They do risk their bacon every day, so to speak.”