Port Alberni residents ‘struggling’ while waiting for B.C. murder suspects to be caught: mayor
The mayor of Port Alberni, B.C., says her community is continuing to struggle under intense scrutiny as the manhunt continues for two local men accused of killing three people in the province’s north.
But Sharie Minions told Global News Sunday she’s most concerned about the families of 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky and 19-year-old Kam McLeod, who have evaded capture now for five days and were last spotted in Manitoba.
“Every day that goes by it changes a little bit, but people are struggling here, for sure,” she said. “I think a lot of it is just worry about how this is going to end.
“There’s so much going on countrywide, but I think what we see is a couple of local families that are probably going through hell right now.”
Schmegelsky and McLeod have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck of Vancouver and are suspected in the shooting deaths of Australian Lucas Fowler and American Chynna Deese.
It’s believed the young men left Port Alberni to look for work in either the Yukon or Alberta.
WATCH: Hunt for B.C. murder suspects moves to York Landing, Man. after tip comes into RCMP
Minions said residents have attempted to get her in touch with the suspects’ families, but she has opted to respect their privacy.
“We’re really trying to give them the respect and privacy they need while they wait for answers, just like the rest of us,” she said.
Relatives of Schmegelsky and McLeod have stayed mostly silent after police announced the men were suspects in the three murders.
An exception has been Schmegelsky’s father Alan, who has distributed a book he’s written to the media detailing his struggles leading up to his son turning fugitive.
The book, titled Red Flagged, sheds new light on Alan’s mental health and numerous run-ins with the law, and provides greater insight into the possible impacts the events may have had on his son.
Last week, he told the Canadian Press he was convinced Bryer was on a “suicide mission” and would “go out in a blaze of glory,” appearing to say goodbye to his son.
WATCH: Father of teen wanted for B.C. murders fears son will ‘go out in a blaze of glory’
By contrast, McLeod’s father Keith has only released one short written statement to the media that pleaded for privacy as the family comes to terms with what is happening.
“This is what I do know — Kam is a kind, considerate, caring young man [who] always has been concerned about other people’s feelings,” he wrote.
Since then, Schmegelsky and McLeod have been spotted in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan until leading investigators to Gillam, Man., where RCMP, military members and volunteers have followed up on sightings and gone door to door for information.
Minions said she reached out to Gillam Mayor Dwayne Forman this weekend to offer her support.
“I think he was a little surprised that I called at first, but it’s always nice to reach out in situations like this,” she said. “We’ve had several people reach out to us, asking us how we’re doing, so I just wanted to pass that along.”
Those people have included other mayors around Vancouver Island, Minions said, who have also offered their support.
Minions has also shared statements with residents on the city’s website and her personal Facebook page, telling people to stay strong and submit any tips to the RCMP.
“We are being linked to crimes that are unthinkable, and it has put us under the watchful eye of the rest of the country,” the mayor wrote Friday.
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“Let’s show the rest of this nation we are much more than the latest headlines. We are a community that sticks together in a crisis. We care about each other and will lean on one another during this time.”
Police later on Sunday descended on the remote community of York Landing, Man., after a possible sighting of the pair scavenging for food at the local landfill.
As of late that night, RCMP in Manitoba suggested they were closing in on the suspects.
While all eyes remain focused on Manitoba, Minions said she’s hopeful the manhunt is resolved peacefully.
“We want to see this come to a peaceful conclusion as soon as possible so we can get some answers,” she said. “What we’re really trying to do is not speculate, because we really don’t have a lot of information yet.
WATCH: (Aired July 24) B.C. community reeling over murder suspects
“We want to support the RCMP in any way we can to help them hopefully safely apprehend these two, so we can get the answers we’re looking for.”
—With files from the Canadian Press
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.