A gun battle in rural Alberta that left one man dead and two Mounties recovering from bullet wounds has turned into a manhunt for a “person of interest” who police warn may be armed with long-barrelled weapons.
The RCMP confirmed on Wednesday that investigators found an unidentified man deceased inside the Killam-area home, which police had surrounded after gunfire broke out the day before during an attempt to execute a search warrant for a .45-calibre handgun.
Police are looking for Sawyer Clarke Robison, 27, whose home was the subject of the search warrant. Four Mounties from the detachment in Killam, about 160 kilometres southeast of Edmonton, went to Mr. Robison’s residence around 2 p.m. Tuesday.
That’s when Constables Sheldon Shah and Sidney Gaudette were shot and later airlifted to hospitals in Edmonton, where each underwent surgery.
RCMP Sergeant Patrick Webb said both men are now recovering in hospital.
One officer was shot in the back, and the second was hit in the leg, arm and shoulder, according to Alberta Solicitor-General Jonathan Denis. He did not specify which officer had which injuries. Neither officer had more than five years’ experience. Constable Gaudette was recently married and has a young daughter, friends said.
Mr. Robison, who owns Warthog Photography in the small community of Sedgewick, east of Killam, is not known to police. On his website, Mr. Robison said his focus is on fashion, dance, music, modelling and portrait photography.
Sgt. Webb said while Mr. Robison could be “armed and dangerous” and should not to be approached by the public, the local communities shouldn’t be concerned. “We don’t believe he is a danger to the public in general,” Sgt. Webb said. “…We’re trying to determine what happened in the house [Tuesday]and his involvement.”
While Mr. Robison is not being called a suspect, according to Sgt. Webb, he is considered “significantly involved in the shooting of two RCMP members.”
Mr. Robison has brown hair and eyes, is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, and physically fit, police said. He may be driving a black 2000 Chevrolet Silverado with Alberta plate UZE 545.
Sgt. Webb said once police assessed the scene and were able to enter the home, weapons were seized and the body of a man was located. He could not say whether the man was killed by police. Protocols and risk assessments will be examined to determine whether officers should have done anything differently when they first approached the home, Sgt. Webb added.
What provoked the shooting is unclear, but Sgt. Webb said it was related to a domestic violence call police investigated on the weekend at another residence near Hardisty, which had local residents abuzz even before the gunfire was exchanged. Rumours were flying that a man in Hardisty was the target of a murder plot.
Police in unmarked vehicles and with dogs scoured the countryside for any sign of Mr. Robison. Police as far away as the Northwest Territories issued a bulletin for residents to be on the lookout.
But all along Highway 13, stretching from Killam to Hardisty, people in the agricultural and oil and gas communities said it was pretty much business as usual. Still, what happened is on everyone’s mind and many people refused to talk about it.
“It’s shocking,” said Tara Hardon, a hair stylist in Sedgewick. “It’s not good.”
Killam Mayor Bud James people are mainly focused on the recovery of the wounded officers – not on the manhunt.
“I don’t think people are really panicked. They’re not really concerned that one of these suspects is still at large,” Mr. James said.
He said local MLA Doug Griffiths met with the injured officers and reported that both are doing “surprisingly well.”
Mr. James said he also feels for the loved ones of the dead man and the man police are seeking. “It’s disconcerting. They’ve got brothers and sisters and moms and dads,” he said.
For many, the incident is a reminder of the 2005 shooting deaths of four Mounties near Mayerthorpe, Alta. In that case, the gunman, James Roszko, a known cop-hater, killed himself in the melee. Two men were subsequently convicted in connection with helping Mr. Roszko commit his crimes.