Fort Smith suspect is arrested, ending three-day police operation
The suspect at the centre of a three-day police operation in Fort Smith has been apprehended without further incident, RCMP say.
Police said the arrest was made at 3:45pm on Sunday, confirming a Town of Fort Smith emergency message that had announced the suspect’s entry into custody.
In video recorded by nearby residents, an officer can be heard ordering anyone inside a property in the vicinity of Field Street to come out of the door with nothing in their hands. A loud bang can be heard as the operation reaches a climax.
Sharing the news to Facebook, the town thanked residents for their “patience and empathy” after a day of lockdown on Friday followed by police activity all weekend.
Police thanked residents “for their generosity and well wishes shown towards the RCMP personnel who were engaged in the police operations.”
In a news release shortly after 10am, police said a 17-year-old boy was a suspect “in a series of break-and-enters” beginning on Friday, in which a vehicle and “multiple long-barrel firearms” were stolen from two locations.
The teenager was already wanted on two charges – assault with a weapon and a probation breach – related to an earlier incident at the end of February.
Police did not immediately link him to the suspicious death of a person that took place early on Friday but said that investigation was continuing.
At 2pm, a significant police presence was reported on Field Street. RCMP told residents on Field Street and at the Aurora College residences of Thebacha Kue and Aurora Gardens to shelter in place.
Two hours later, the town said a suspect was in custody and an RCMP news release would follow.
The teenager had been widely identified among Fort Smith residents as the focus of the police operation, even before RCMP confirmed his identity on Sunday. (His name has been removed from this report as the suspect has now apprehended and is before the courts as a youth.)
Police said they were identifying the minor as a matter of public safety given their suspicion that he had stolen firearms.
“After a consideration of all the investigations we’re engaged in, and RCMP knowing of [his being] a suspect in a break-and-enter where firearms were taken, we believed in the interest of public safety – and his own safety – we would release his name and picture to the public, in hopes we can generate tips about where he may be,” Insp Barry LaRocque told Cabin Radio.
The 17-year-old had “access to weapons and is believed to be dangerous,” RCMP said on Sunday morning.
RCMP spent much of Friday on Field Street, where a stolen Government of the Northwest Territories Ford Explorer turned up, but a stakeout of a property on that street ultimately did not reveal the suspect within. There was little confirmed progress in the investigation on Saturday.
On Sunday, police suggested they believed some residents may know where the 17-year-old is.
“We certainly are considering that he may have assistance from people that are hiding or helping him,” said Insp LaRocque prior to Sunday afternoon’s developments.