Share tips about B.C. murder suspects to police, not social media, says former officer

Click to play video: 'Share tips of B.C. murder suspects directly to police not social media'
Share tips of B.C. murder suspects directly to police not social media
As the search in Northern Manitoba continues for the two B.C. murder suspects, RCMP are urging people to share their tips directly with them rather than through social media to avoid misinformation – Jul 30, 2019

A former Manitoba RCMP officer is urging the public to be careful when it comes to sharing information online about the hunt for the two B.C. murder suspects.

Social media posts began circulating Sunday afternoon, speculating that Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, and Kam McLeod, 19, were caught in Winnipeg.

A video, which has since been deleted from Twitter, showed two young men surrounded by heavily-armed RCMP officers on the side of the Perimeter Highway, but police said it was a case of mistaken identity.

“Social media can be a help or a hindrance,” former RCMP officer Sherry Benson-Podolchuk said.

Late Sunday afternoon, police received a credible tip from a member of the Bear Clan who said they spotted two men, matching the descriptions of Schmegelsky and McLeod, scavenging at a dump site in York Landing, Manitoba.

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WATCH: Coverage of the hunt for suspects in the northern B.C. murders on Global News

Once word spread about the possible sighting in the community about 200 km west of Gillam, Man., more speculative social media posts began appearing online.

Some Twitter posts, many of which have since been deleted, said that the suspects had been caught, while others reported shots being fired. Police said no contact has been made with the pair and there are no reports of any shots fired.

Podolchuk said it’s normal be to fascinated and want to help, but sharing false information can do the opposite.

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“If you think this is a tip, don’t share it, send it to the police,” she said. “Then they can quickly eliminate it because you’re taking away resources and their time and their energy in trying to locate these suspects.”

Last week, a photo of a young man resembling McLeod holding up a copy of the Winnipeg Sun paper featuring the two suspects began circulating online. Police later confirmed the individual in the picture was not McLeod.

At a press conference on Monday, Cpl. Julie Courchaine said the RCMP is doing the best it can to share accurate information in a timely manner.

“I think that some of the misinformation being spread over social media does create issues,” Courchaine said.

“We want to remind everybody that if there is something you see on social media, contact us or send it to us so we can confirm that.”

Schmegelsky and McLeod have been charged with second-degree murder in the death of 64-year-old Leonard Dyck of B.C. and are suspected of killing Australian Lucas Fowler and American Chynna Deese in northern B.C.

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The last confirmed sighting of Schmegelsky and McLeod, who were first considered missing persons, was in Gillam on Monday.

A burned-out Toyota RAV4 the teens were driving was found nearby, and police said there have been no reports of stolen vehicles since then.

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