Fort Smith’s lockdown is continuing overnight into Saturday as suspects remain “at large and considered dangerous,” the town said after 10pm on Friday.
In a statement issued shortly after 11pm, RCMP said their operation in the town was “ongoing” after multiple gunshots were heard and a person was confirmed to have passed away in suspicious circumstances.
“Public safety is paramount. The Fort Smith RCMP are requesting community members be
vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police,” that statement read.
“Additional NWT RCMP resources have been deployed to the community and will remain in
place until this investigation is concluded.”
Fort Smith residents can expect “an enhanced police presence” in the meantime, RCMP said. Officers were patrolling the town overnight.
The next police update is scheduled for 11am on Saturday, March 5.
Earlier on Friday evening, the Town of Fort Smith asked residents to avoid the area of Calder Avenue, Field Street, and Wilderness Road.
“RCMP teams are in town working to resolve the situation,” the town said in an emergency message sent by phone and text.
Field Street was partly blocked off for much of Friday. Chief David Poitras of the Salt River First Nation said on Facebook police had focused their attention on a house on that street.
“They are currently waiting for reinforcement to hopefully bring the current situation to an end,” Chief Poitras wrote at 2pm.
RCMP first ordered residents to take cover shortly after 10:30am, saying at least one “armed and dangerous” suspect was at large.
Police said a white 2019 Ford Explorer bearing a Government of the Northwest Territories logo was considered a suspect vehicle.
Residents described police in tactical gear closing down Field Street as the town’s health centre, schools, college, and stores shut their doors and people sought shelter.
“Fort Smith RCMP responded to a number of firearms-related complaints,” a Friday morning police statement read.
“At this time, one person has been confirmed deceased. A number of RCMP resources have been engaged and are en route to the community.
“The suspect is considered armed and dangerous.”
The identity of the deceased was not provided, nor were the circumstances in which they had passed away made clear. No suspects involved have been publicly identified.
In the NWT legislature, Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos – who represents Fort Smith – made comments that appeared to reference incidents in the community.
Martselos said: “I just want to let my community know that I’m very sorry about the chaos that happened in Fort Smith last night. I’ll be home tonight and I’ll deal with it.”
“The GNWT is paying close attention to the situation unfolding in Fort Smith,” Premier Caroline Cochrane said in a brief statement.
“The RCMP is doing everything it can to manage the situation and ensure public safety is maintained. My heart goes out to the community of Fort Smith and the family and friends of the deceased.”
Residents can sign up for emergency alerts from the town on its website.