PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE — A Winnipeg man was shot by RCMP early Wednesday after a pickup truck allegedly swerved at an officer during a wild highway incident sparked by a theft of two all-terrain vehicles.
The 27-year-old suspect, who is in stable condition in hospital, is facing a charge of attempted murder on police, while the male officer who fired the shots escaped with minor injuries.
The incident began just before 4 a.m., when two quad bikes were taken from a lot at an Enns Brothers shop on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of Portage la Prairie.
It was one of at least three scenes along a 20-kilometre stretch of road.
"I got a phone call around 10 minutes to four from the security company informing me two ATVs had been stolen and police were called," said Gary Bohn, who manages the Enns Brothers shop. "They were fairly quick. They drove onto our lot and backed up to the units they wanted.
"They rolled two quads onto their trailer within three minutes, and they were gone."
Security company staff watched high-quality, real-time surveillance video from a remote location as the theft unfolded.
A description of the truck was given to RCMP, who began searching for the vehicle.
Bohn, who viewed the footage after the incident, said it appeared two men were involved in the theft of the Can-Am Outlander quads.
One was a Max 850 in blue and the other was a used 650 XT, he said, noting they are worth about $30,000 combined. The keys were not with the ATVs when they were stolen.
"We have people watching our lot 24-7, live. It does happen from time to time, people trying to steal things," said Bohn.
Some time after receiving a call about a break-and-enter at a business, police spotted and attempted to stop a vehicle towing a trailer near Portage, an RCMP news release stated.
RCMP allege the driver rammed a police vehicle several times and attempted to run it off the road, resulting in the officer’s vehicle becoming pinned between the other vehicle and its trailer.
The officer then got out of his vehicle.
He fired shots from his service pistol after the truck swerved toward him, according to police and the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, the province’s police watchdog, which is investigating the shooting.
That scene was about 10 kilometres east of Portage on the westbound Trans-Canada, according to people who live nearby but didn’t witness the incident.
They saw police vehicles parked in the westbound lanes, which were closed at Highway 13, a few hours after the incident. Westbound drivers were forced to take a detour via Provincial Road 430 and Highway 26 while the lanes were blocked.
After the scene was cleared, tire marks and debris were visible along the left shoulder for a considerable distance.
Officers apprehended a suspect in Portage shortly after the truck fled the scene of the shooting. He is facing multiple charges.
A male occupant of the suspect vehicle suffered a gunshot wound and was taken to hospital, according to the IIU.
Addressing the possibility of a second suspect, RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel said one person is in custody and the investigation is ongoing.
At the third scene, a Chevrolet pickup truck towing a trailer with two quads was stopped in a westbound lane on Saskatchewan Avenue East, at Fourth Street Northeast, in Portage, which is about 70 kilometres west of Winnipeg.
Within a cordon of yellow crime-scene tape, a forensic officer took pictures of the truck and placed items into bags as they were removed from the vehicle.
The truck had significant damage along its driver’s side. Most of its tires were deflated or completely shredded, with the back left rim exposed. Police did not say if a spike belt was used in an attempt to stop the truck.
A marked police SUV was parked behind the trailer carrying the quads. A black unmarked SUV was parked off to the right side of the truck.
The scene is surrounded by businesses. All but one — a 24-hour gas station and convenience store — were closed at the time.
An overnight employee briefly mentioned seeing about 10 to 12 police vehicles surround the truck before his shift ended and he left to go home to bed, gas station staff said.
A woman, who didn’t want to be named, came upon the scene as she walked to work at 5 a.m.
At least 10 police vehicles and an ambulance were around the truck, she said.
"I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I wonder what happened?’ There were so many police," she said, adding it appeared the suspect had already been taken to hospital.
The IIU is investigating the officer-involved shooting because it is mandated to probe all serious incidents involving police.
Anyone with information about the incident or video footage is asked to call the IIU at 1-844-667-6060.
As a general assignment reporter, Chris covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.