July 27, 2019 4:45 pm
Updated: July 27, 2019 7:22 pm

At the centre of an RCMP manhunt, here’s how Gillam, Man., is coping

WATCH ABOVE: RCMP to conduct door-to-door canvassing in Gillam, Man., in search for B.C. murder suspects.

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Christine Massan never locked her doors until this week, when Gillam, Man., became the centre of a national manhunt for two suspected killers.

“I locked my doors for the first time in 19 years on Tuesday night,” she said. “Brought my keys in from my vehicle and locked the doors.”

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Gillam, a remote community of about 1,200 people in northern Manitoba, is the last known location of Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19. They are charged with second-degree murder in the death of Leonard Dyck in northern B.C.

READ MORE: Canadian Forces approved to join air search for B.C. murder suspects

WATCH: Ex-RCMP officer, survivalist weigh in on hunt for teen fugitives

The young men, both of Port Alberni, B.C., are also suspects in the shooting deaths of a young couple, Chynna Deese of Charlotte, N.C., and Lucas Fowler of Australia.

A burned-out RAV 4 that police say Schmegelsky and McLeod had been travelling in was found in the Gillam area earlier this week.

Since then, there have been no confirmed sightings. A heavy contingent of police have been searching the rugged terrain for the men, aided by helicopters, drones, dogs — and as of Saturday, Canadian Forces aircraft.

RCMP officers are canvassing door to door this weekend, both in Gillam and in nearby Fox Lake Cree Nation, in hopes of uncovering new information.

WATCH: Survival expert weighs in on the Manitoba manhunt

RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said Friday that officers are looking into the possibility that the suspects “may have inadvertently received assistance in leaving the area.”

READ MORE: Canadian Forces aid search for B.C. murder suspects in Gillam, Man.

The suspects were originally considered missing persons. Police say they are considered armed and dangerous and have warned the public not to approach them if spotted.

“Some individuals are locking themselves in their house and staying secure that way,” Mayor Dwayne Forman said Friday. “Others are just travelling in groups and staying safe and staying vigilant.”

WATCH: RCMP considers possibility suspects may have left Gillam

Gillam is about 1,000 kilometres north of Winnipeg and an almost 10-hour train ride south of Churchill, Man., on Hudson Bay. According to the 2016 Census, there are 436 homes.

In addition to sparking concern among residents, the manhunt has thrust the small community into the national and international spotlight.

Karen Donnellan-Fisher, general manager of the Co-op in Gillam, described the community as family-oriented. Gillam, she said, is home to many who were born in the area, as well as workers for Manitoba Hydro.

Wait, There’s More: Unpacking the B.C. murders

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“It’s a very close-knit community where everybody knows everybody,” she told Global News Radio’s Simi Sara on Friday.

She said having the town at the centre of all this attention has been “kind of crazy.”

“Normally, it’s a pretty quiet town, but yeah, I mean, we’ve got tons of media in town and lots of RCMP officers,” she said.

“So definitely, as far as on a personal basis as feeling safe, I feel safe. I live right in town and there is a lot of police traffic in and around the community.”

READ MORE: Canadian Forces approved to join air search for B.C. murder suspects

She said that, in the midst of the manhunt, Co-op employees will no longer be working solo.

“We have a couple of locations where we have employees that will generally work by themselves because it’s quieter locations, and now we’ve upped that where nobody is being left alone at any time.”

With files from Sean O’Shea, Crystal Goomansingh, and Jessica Vomiero, Global News

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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