Erica Hennie said it was a normal Sunday as she had her first cup of coffee at her La Ronge home when she heard gunshots.
After, Hennie and her son heard sirens. She said police vehicles parked in front of her house and her neighbours’ houses.
“As the day progressed, we just waited for updates and all of a sudden we have an alert on our cellphone,” Hennie recalled.
On Sunday, RCMP issued a public safety alert due to two men in the area with handguns. The alert stated shots had been fired at police.
Residents were asked to stay inside and lock their doors and windows. RCMP also told drivers to be cautious of anyone looking for a ride.
“My first thought was, well, I hope it’s nobody that I know. I hope nobody got hurt because when you hear gunshots, the worst fear in your mind is, you know somebody that’s going to pass (away),” Hennie said.
She said throughout the day there were officers standing outside her home with big guns and bulletproof vests.
Hennie said they were walking between houses and going to the backyard of a house.
“There was loud bangs there. You could hear the cops yelling at the people inside the house.”
In an updated release sent Monday afternoon, RCMP revealed further details about what happened.
RCMP said around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, two officers were conducting patrols when a black car drove past them at a “high rate of speed” on Far Reserve Road.
The release said officers used emergency equipment to stop the vehicle but it continued driving and turned into a driveway at a home in the 100 block of Far Reserve Road.
RCMP said the man driving the vehicle fled the area and an officer followed, both on foot.
RCMP say the second officer was outside of the police truck when police say a second man got out of the car with a gun and discharged it in the direction of the police vehicle and officer.
The officer also discharged their firearm.
RCMP released a photo showing a bullet-hole in the windshield of the RCMP vehicle. A second bullet hit the front radiator.
The two responding officers moved to safety and more La Ronge RCMP officers arrived.
According to RCMP, a gathering was happening at the home where the black car parked and multiple people left the home and were arrested.
Included in the arrests were a man and a woman that RCMP say investigation has determined were also in the black car and went inside the home when firearms were discharged.
RCMP say a third woman from the black car is unaccounted for.
Due to the serious nature of the incident, an emergency alert was issued to the public notifying it of a dangerous person with firearms in the La Ronge area at 12:29 p.m.
RCMP added that at one point a drone was flying above RCMP officers on scene.
“While we understand the public’s interest in serious incidents, its presence and unknown intent impacted police officer safety,” RCMP stated.
Shortly after an officer called out on a loud hailer and a message was included in the alert asking the operator to stop using the drone, the drone activity in the area stopped.
The RCMP critical incident response team also responded to help officers.
As a result, around 4:30 p.m., two more men and one woman left the home and were arrested.
The emergency alert was cancelled at 5:35 p.m. on Sunday.
No officers were injured during this incident and no other injuries have been reported to police.
In total, 17 people were arrested in relation to this incident and after continued investigation, 15 of those people have been released without charges and determined not to be involved.
The whereabouts of three people — the initial suspect who fled the area on foot, the man who discharged a weapon and a woman who was in the car — have not been located.
The first suspect is described as a man with short dark hair with sides the shaved, wearing dark pants, a dark shirt with gold patterns down the sleeves and dark runners. A photo of the suspect has been released.
Anyone who sees the suspect is asked to contact police immediately and not approach him.
The La Ronge RCMP detachment commander, Staff Sgt. Dean Bridle, said as well as this incident, there was a children’s festival happening in the community, garage sales and people enjoying the sunny weather.
“When an incident is unfolding, there is a lot going on and many risk factors our responding police officers must consider, the scope of which are far-reaching and public and police officer safety must always be top of mind,” Bridle said.
Bridle thanked those who co-operated with police and followed directions. He hopes releasing this information provides the public with more insight “into the seriousness of what occurred.”
‘Isolated incidents’ not reflective of positive community
Hennie said these types of incidents seem to be “happening a lot, but it’s not a lot when you look at it.”
“There’s only isolated incidents, it’s not an everyday thing for us,” Hennie said.
Hennie has noticed that her community has been looked at as a “dangerous place.”
“People tend to think that, ‘Oh, you’re from La Ronge, you guys are dangerous. Isn’t that a wild town?’
“When the media does that, it brings the community down as a whole. It pretty much stereotypes us all northerners that come from La Ronge. In reality, we’re not all like that.”
Hennie said while there may be a “few seeds that … are bad,” it’s not the whole community.
“We have things that are positive in the community.”
She added that the chief and council have support available for prevention, recovery and mental health. A new wellness centre is also opening this week.
Hennie added that La Ronge is a “beautiful community” and place to live with a lakefront, beaches and campground.
“These kinds of incidents happen in every community. It’s not just an isolated thing for us. It happens every day — Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Yorkton and other small towns.”
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