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Members of the Manitoba RCMP containment team search near the garbage dump on Monday morning where triple murder suspects Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod were reportedly spotted the prior evening in York Landing.Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

The RCMP commander in the hunt for a pair of British Columbians suspected in three slayings has explained the sound of gunshots heard by residents of York Landing, Man., while police were checking out a sighting of the teens.

In a Tuesday interview, Inspector Kevin Lewis said his officers were not shooting at anyone.

“They needed to attract the attention of the members of the team due to problems with communications,” he said, referring to the search last Sunday for the suspects, Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky.

“In those cases there, they needed to direct resources to where the threat was believed to be. That’s the way we some times have to do business.”

He said the idea is to signal that police officers are required immediately at a certain location.

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Despite multiple York Landing residents saying they heard gunshots after officers arrived on Sunday to search for the suspects, the Manitoba RCMP said they had no reports of shots fired around York Landing.

Insp. Lewis acknowledged a problem with communications, and said it’s an occasional issue. “It’s not a normal thing to have happen, but it does happen,” he said. “It did happen in York Landing’s case, yes.”

In the past, there have been questions about RCMP communications in crisis situations.

In 2014, a gunman shot dead three RCMP officers in Moncton with an assault rifle. An internal RCMP review of the Moncton killings concluded police communications were often overloaded, unco-ordinated, absent and confusing. It recommended implementing better radio technology and that every serving RCMP member should be “in possession of a cellular or satellite phone (where available) and police radio while on duty.”

In the 2016, Fort McMurray, Alta., forest fires, Mounties evacuating 90,000 people ran out of radios. On top of that, their radio channel overloaded and the force didn’t have a backup communications system. Officials in Ottawa had sent RCMP in Alberta about two dozen phones, but they could not be used immediately. Some phones were dead. Some were locked. Some contained data from their previous users.