Baumgartner now a suspect in University of Alberta shooting: police
EDMONTON – In a news conference held at Edmonton Police Services headquarters Friday afternoon, police said that Travis Baumgartner is now a suspect in this morning’s shooting at the University of Alberta that left three G4S security guards dead, and one seriously injured.
“With the approval of the Crown, we now believe we have reasonable, probable grounds, that this is the person responsible for this terrible crime,” said Bob Hassel, EPS Supt. Criminal Investigations Div. in a release. “We want to encourage anyone who may know of this individual’s whereabouts to contact EPS immediately.”
Up until now, Baumgartner was only considered a person of interest in the case. Police now believe they have enough information to charge the 21-year-old man with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Friday afternoon, officers had blocked off an area surrounding the suspect’s residence in Sherwood Park and locked down a nearby school as they searched for Baumgartner. He is thought to be armed and dangerous and police are advising the public to use extreme caution if anyone sees him.
Police may be providing another update on the situation at 9 p.m. MT Friday.
Baumgartner was believed to be driving a Ford F-150 truck with Alberta licence plate ZRE-724. Edmonton police, RCMP, Canada Border Services officials and U.S. Customs agents have all been involved in the search, Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht said.
Police began looking for the missing G4S employee shortly after passers-by found the guards around 12:30 a.m. Friday.
The robbery occurred at HUB Mall, a long, thin rectangular block of shops, eateries and student apartments on the east end of campus, which sits on the south side of the North Saskatchewan River and across from Edmonton’s downtown skyscrapers.
The three guards killed in Friday’s shooting have been identified as Michelle Shegelski who was newly married, Eddie Rejano, and Brian Ilesic.
Ilesic’s family sent Global News the following statement:
“We are deeply saddened and shocked by today’s events and are trying to deal with it as best we can. Our hearts go out to the other families that have also been affected. Brian was deeply loved by his family and friends and leaves behind a 12 year old daughter. We feel very blessed that he was in our lives, although taken from us much too soon. Brian was always a joy to be around. He will be missed dearly and will forever be in our prayers. Brian had many hopes and dreams……due to today’s tragedy his hopes and dreams are no longer possible. We ask God to take care of him now.”
The wounded guard has been identified as Matt Schuman. Kerry Williamson, a senior media relations adviser with Alberta Health Services, earlier said that the injured guard was transported to nearby University of Alberta Hospital in critical condition – “as bad as it gets.”
James Robson, a longtime friend of Schumann’s, told Global News that Schumann, who has a fiance and young child, began working for G4S a couple months ago as a side job. While Robson was happy to hear that his friend survived the shooting, he is also angry that it happened in the first place.
“If you want to rob something, rob it but don’t shoot your buddies in the back for it. You work with these guys. You’re supposed to know them. They trust you. You trust them.”
One bystander photo of the scene posted to Facebook showed emergency crews working over the bodies in front of the ATM. There were blood streaks on the concrete floor out from behind the machine to where the bodies were lying.
“It’s devastating,” said G4S spokeswoman Robin Steinberg, who confirmed the deaths and injuries. “Our hearts go out to families of the victims.”
Steinberg confirmed the guards were armed, but would say little else.
Student residents, who live in apartments above the stores, reported hearing shots.
Students volunteering for the University’s Safewalk program came upon the scene. The SU Vice President, Saadiq Sumar praised the student volunteers. ‘
“Quick action by the Safewalk volunteers helped to alert both the police and campus community of the threat, and to get medical assistance to the wounded individual,” said Sumar.
Police and tactical units swarmed the campus shortly after.
Ian Breitzke said he saw police pulling out bodies. The 21-year-old accounting student said he was watching TV in his residence room and heard a man in a room behind an ATM crying out in pain.
“When the police came in about 10 minutes, they ended up busting down the door (of the ATM room) and pulling out all the bodies that were in there,” he said.
“Another couple of moments after that (they) pulled the man who was still alive out of the room.”
The university was put in lockdown after the shooting. Any students leaving their rooms in the residence were being told they could not return until 7 p.m.
The university confirmed that it did not send out an emergency alert to students on its internal website system when the shooting happened. Instead, police went door to door in the residence telling people to stay inside.
Grief counselling at Lister Hall has been made available for students living at the HUB residence, and students too traumatized to write exams have been allowed to defer them.
The rest of the university was operating as normal and scheduled exams were going ahead.
About 560 students are living in residence at the mall at this time of year.
G4S is an international security company with more than 630,000 employees. It has a specialized cash-management arm that delivers pay packets to fill ATMs. Steinberg said the Edmonton office, which has about 100 employees, has limited its operations since the shootings. The company issued a statement on its website expressing its condolences.
According to what Steven Munzcco, a friend of the suspect in Friday’s shooting, told the Canadian Press, Travis Baumgartner had been with G4S Security for about three months and hoped eventually to become a police officer.
Executives from Toronto were flying to Edmonton to meet with staff and police.
It was the second robbery of a G4S armoured vehicle in Edmonton in recent months. Last December, guards making a mid-afternoon pickup outside a casino were attacked and pepper-sprayed by two masked men. The pair fled in a Jeep with an undisclosed amount of money. No arrests have been made.
In Calgary, two men dressed in military fatigues and armed with assault rifles and tear gas ambushed two Brinks guards delivering $300,000 in cash to a north-end mall in 1998.
More than 80 bullets were exchanged in a fierce gun battle, but no one was hurt. The robbers fled empty-handed and were later arrested.
With files from The Canadian Press and the Edmonton Journal