The mayor of High Prairie says flags in the northern Alberta town have been lowered to half-mast today to honour the on-duty death of a police service dog, shot and killed in the line of duty on Thursday.
“The thought behind it obviously was a canine is like a member of the RCMP. So that’s why we lowered it,” Mayor Brian Panasiuk told CBC News.
Police confirmed the death of police service dog (PSD) Jago at a news conference Friday.
RCMP have been tracking a suspect, Lionel Ernest Grey, in the Winigami Lake Provincial Park, located northeast of High Prairie, since Thursday morning.
High Prairie is about 370 kilometres northwest of Edmonton.
The ongoing operation began when RCMP conducted a traffic stop for the man from the High Prairie area with outstanding arrest warrants on Thursday morning.
Police said the vehicle fled from police and became stuck in the mud. At that point, the suspect ran on foot into a wooded area.
A large police operation has been mounted to track down the suspect.
“There is a huge police presence in our community,” Panasiuk said. “We see the helicopters, the vehicles. They’re definitely here and around. So they’ve brought people in to deal with the incident.”
RCMP said their emergency response team, police dog services units and air services have an area contained where they believe the suspect is hiding.
The mayor said the terrain would make it difficult to find a suspect.
“The dog would have been ideal to track somebody who’s running through the bush like that, ” Panasiuk said.
The mayor said the community lobbied for years to get a police dog and PSD Jago and his handler, Cpl. Scott MacLeod, arrived in High Prairie in August last year.
“We finally got one and then this happens, so the setback is going to be huge,” Panasiuk said.
RCMP are asking all residents in the High Prairie area to stay away from police activity and to report any suspicious activity.
They say the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has been directed to investigate the incident when it’s concluded.