ST. PAUL - When Dale Hedrick says he chased a vehicle down the back roads reaching speeds of 170 km/hr., he also says it probably wasn’t the smartest thing he’s ever done. Even when the driver allegedly shot at Hedrick during the pursuit, he was not deterred, eventually stopping his truck and trailer in the middle of the road as the vehicle in front turned around and headed straight for him. Hedrick said another shot was fired at him as the vehicle then veered into the ditch and took off.
Prior to initiating the chase, the County of St. Paul councillor first called the RCMP to report a suspicious vehicle parked outside his yard with the man behind the wheel being someone he said he recognized from security camera footage from previous break-ins on his property.
Hedrick said he was angry and jumped into his truck and did not give a second thought to giving chase, despite the RCMP telling him not to.
“The criminals know the RCMP aren’t allowed to chase them … you have to chase them yourself,” he told Lakeland Today recounting the June 24 incident. “The thieves have more rights than you do.”
In following up with RCMP regarding the incident, Lakeland Today was told by RCMP media relations officer Cpl. Troy Savinkoff the St. Paul RCMP did receive a call from an Ashmont area resident initially reporting a suspicious vehicle near his shop.
“As he was speaking to officers, he began following the truck and was ultimately advised not to. The complainant did report that he was shot at, at least twice . . . However, there was no evidence that he or his vehicle were hit by the shots,” Savinkoff said last week, adding RCMP did respond but were unable to locate the vehicle, which turned out to be stolen, nor the occupants.
However, about two weeks later, Lac La Biche RCMP arrests were made of two people in possession of the same stolen vehicle. Savinkoff said the investigation is still ongoing as to whether these individuals were connected to the earlier incident.
“If you call the RCMP without giving the heads up to these individuals that you are watching them, that's when we actually have the most success in catching them,” Savinkoff said in advising how people should handle suspicious activity. “If they don’t know they are being watched, the RCMP can set up a plan as to how we are going to approach that property to mitigate them running and so forth. We can ensure we have the proper resources and a strategy so we can come in and deal with an incident in a safe manner.”
Victim held up at gunpoint
Hedrick said the ongoing crime in the area has people on edge, recounting an incident July 8 where a man in the Mann Lake area on Highway 28 was held up at gunpoint in his yard and his vehicle was stolen.
Questioned about this incident, Savinkoff said St. Paul RCMP received a call at 7 p.m. from a rural resident saying that “four or five individuals” had held him at gunpoint, then sprayed him with bear spray before stealing his vehicle and taking off. He said the investigation into this incident is also ongoing.
Fuel thieves fire shots
Earlier in the week, an Elk Point area farmer who also happens to be the Reeve of the County of St. Paul, Glen Ockerman, found his property the target of armed gunmen stealing diesel from his farm tanks.
“I’m just really thankful that no one was hurt,” Ockerman told Lakeland Today, adding he was grateful the RCMP “were really fast and responsive.”
RCMP confirmed that on July 5 at about 1:38 a.m., the Elk Point RCMP detachment responded to a call where the complainant indicated he had observed a vehicle on his property and shots had been fired by the suspects.
“It appeared they had been stealing diesel fuel. The victim had attempted to engage the individuals while they were stealing the gas. The suspects got stuck and while they got stuck, they actually began shooting a firearm in the direction of the victim, eventually leaving the property,” Savinkoff responded when questioned about the incident.
This matter is also part of an ongoing investigation.