An RCMP officer fighting for his life in hospital after being shot inside a casino Saturday is a “treasured” St. Albert elementary school resource officer.
Counsellors will be at Keenooshayo Elementary School on Monday to offer support to students who know Const. David Matthew Wynn, 42.
Wynn has been working at the school for more than five years. He also assists with the DARE program, a prevention and education campaign about drug abuse.
“I spoke to the principal yesterday and he said that [Wynn] is a really treasured part of the Keenooshayo family,” Paula Power, spokeswoman for St. Albert Public Schools, said Sunday.
“He’s got a great rapport with the kids. He’s just part of the family there.”
Wynn was hit by one bullet early Saturday morning while he and his partner, auxiliary Const. Derek Walter Bond, 49, were investigating a stolen vehicle at the Apex Casino on 24 Boudreau Rd. The suspect in the shootings was later found dead inside a rural home about five kilometres north of the casino.
Bond, a volunteer with the force since 2008, was released from hospital Saturday evening.
Wynn, who joined the RCMP in 2009, remains in grave condition.
“This is a huge blow to the community. Const. David Wynn has a special relationship to the children of this community. He’s a DARE officer and has a place in a lot of hearts,” Tara McWheeldon wrote on The Community of St. Albert Facebook page.
RCMP said in a news release Sunday morning that they had no updates but would followup later this morning.
The suspect in the shootings, known to police from previous run-ins, was found dead inside an unoccupied private home in a rural area east of St. Albert, RCMP said at a Saturday afternoon news conference. They have tentatively identified the man but have not released his name.
Police said the suspect had forced his way into the Sturgeon County home after fleeing the scene of the shooting at the
Wynn and Bond were shot inside the casino around 3 a.m., its closing time.
RCMP had been called to investigate a stolen vehicle in the parking lot, Marlin Degrand, criminal operations officer for the RCMP in Alberta, told a news conference Saturday.
The casino was still open, so the officers went inside to look and encountered the shooter. Degrand said the officers were shot without having a chance to return fire.
Wynn was carrying a 9-mm sidearm. As an auxiliary constable, Bond did not have a gun, Degrand said. Auxiliary officers carry pepper spray and batons. They are paired with full officers on their jobs.
After the shooting, RCMP tracked the suspect to the home in Sturgeon County, east of St. Albert.
Neighbour Ted Elkins said he wife woke him at 5 a.m. when she heard a chopper overhead.
“It’s very sad. It’s terrible, you know. They are investigating a stolen vehicle and next thing you know they are fighting for their lives,” Elkins said. “It’s very hard on families so you grieve with them too.”
He said the home was owned by a quiet couple in their 70s.
Police found the suspect dead when they entered the home, Degrand said. Officers didn’t fire their weapons or speak with the suspect before they entered the home.
Because the man died while the residence was under the custody and control of police, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) Is investigating the man’s death. The investigation will focus on the circumstances surrounding the death of the man in the residence. A news release from ASIRT issued Saturday evening said initial evidence suggests no shots were fired at any time by RCMP.
The cause of death and identity of the man have not yet been released. Police had earlier described the suspect as a white man between 25 and 35 wearing blue jeans and a two-toned striped blue jacket. They said he was considered armed and dangerous. Some Sturgeon County residents were told by police not to leave their homes.
The RCMP continues to be in charge of the investigation into the officer shootings.
“Despite the suspect having been found deceased, this remains a continuing investigation, a very complex, intensive [one] and it will be a lengthy one,” Degrand said.
Degrand would not say how many people witnessed the shooting in the casino. Investigators are looking through video surveillance and the business remains closed.
Deanna Blaquiere, whose band Chronic Rock performed at the casino’s Vee Lounge Friday night, said when she and her fellow musicians left the lounge at 1 a.m. there weren’t many patrons left.
A group of about nine men had just arrived at the bar, but otherwise, there were only about half a dozen other customers, Blaquiere said. The lounge is separate from the casino, which has VLT machines but no poker table.
It’s terrible, you know. They are investigating a stolen vehicle and next thing you know they are fighting for their lives
The RCMP has informed the Alberta Director of Law Enforcement of the suspect’s death. The director has told the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team to start an independent review of the circumstances.
The suspect’s death is considered an “in-custody death because police had established containment of the scene.
Degrand spoke about Saturday’s shooting “with deep regret.”
“This incident serves to remind us of the dangers that our front-line responders everywhere face in the performance of their duties,” he said at the first of two Saturday news conferences.
“Our thoughts of course are with our injured officers, their loved ones and their colleagues who are courageously pursuing this investigation as we speak.”
Roads around the casino were blocked off early Saturday. Police tape could be seen near the door and surrounding the entire property.
A dark-coloured pickup truck had been abandoned in a ditch near where the suspect was found.
Debbie and Larry Martin live on an acreage that backs onto a rail line in the area of the police search. They woke up around 7 a.m. and saw officers and canine units searching the railway behind their community, Manor Estates in Sturgeon County.
Police told them if they left their house, they wouldn’t be allowed back.
“[The officers] kept circling around the crescent but at no point did anyone knock on our door and say don’t come out,” Debbie said.
Around 10:30 a.m. Larry went outside to get an update from an officer.
“He kind of indicated the guy was ‘no longer functioning,’” he said.
I extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends of both officers caught in the line of fire
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis said in a statement: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the injured officers and their families as they cope with this tragic event. This incident stands as yet another reminder to us all of the real and present dangers our police officers and peace officers face every single day as they work to keep our communities safe.”
Premier Jim Prentice issued a statement: “It is with shock and sadness that we learn of the serious injuries sustained by two officers in the line of duty as they served their home community of St. Albert early this morning.
“My thoughts are with their families as they pray for their husband, father and son. I know all Albertans stand in unity and gratitude alongside those impacted by the events earlier today as together we hope for the recovery of both officers.”
Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis added: “I extend our deepest sympathies to family and friends of both officers caught in the line of fire at the St. Albert Casino. I commend the RCMP and all law enforcement agencies for their commitment to keeping our communities safe around the clock. Each and every day courageous men and women put themselves at risk to protect our communities, our province, and our country, and I stand with them.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted: “Canada’s thoughts & prayers are with @RCMPAlberta officers today as they deal with an ongoing shooting investigation in the #StAlbert area.”
Saturday’s shootings occurred only one day after the release of a report into the deaths of three RCMP officers and the wounding of two others in Moncton, N.B. last June at the hands of camouflaged gunman Justin Bourque.
With files from The Canadian Press