A weeklong search for a Manitoba man suspected in the homicide of his missing neighbour ended Friday with shots fired at police in Ontario during his arrest.
"When we heard that the (Ontario Provincial Police) had this residence surrounded, our entire team was holding their breath," Manitoba RCMP Supt. Michael Koppang said at a news conference.
Mounties had been scouring Manitoba for Eric Wildman, 34, for nearly a week. There had been credible sightings of him renting a vehicle at the Winnipeg airport and at city hardware stores.
The search had expanded to the area near the Ontario boundary after a sighting of a suspect vehicle.
Then tips started to come in from east of Toronto more than 2,000 kilometres away.
"It was a heck of a long drive in a fairly short period of time," Koppang said.
A vehicle with a matching description and licence plate was spotted at a residence just outside Belleville, Ont., on Thursday night.
Ontario Provincial Police Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said police surrounded the home.
"Upon entering, they were met with gunfire coming from the residence," Schmidt said in a video posted online.
Schmidt said crisis negotiators were eventually able to get the two men inside to surrender. One of the men arrested was Wildman. RCMP said the other was his "associate."
Mounties said they believe the home was always Wildman's destination.
"We are very grateful there were no injuries in this situation as it could have been a very violent encounter," Schmidt said.
Wildman is a suspect in the homicide of Clifford Joseph, 40, who was his neighbour in rural Manitoba. Joseph has been missing since June 7. He was last seen leaving his home in the Rural Municipality of St. Clements, north of Winnipeg.
RCMP later found his truck abandoned in a rural area. Investigators have said there is evidence he was the victim of a homicide.
Mounties had warned that Wildman was armed and dangerous and could have clothing and gear resembling that used by police. Officers found police tactical equipment, patches and other items resembling officer uniforms when they searched his vehicle on Sunday.
Koppang said Mounties are still searching Wildman's vast rural property.
Fire crews were called to a blaze on the property last month. Fire Chief Mark Sinclair said the fire had taken over the home, a garage, a workshop and more than 40 nearby vehicles.
"The spread was fairly fast due to winds and high temperatures," Sinclair said.
It took four hours to put out and the cause of the blaze remains unknown, he said.
Images supplied by RCMP from their search of the land showed burned-out vehicles and other debris.
Koppang added Friday that despite an extensive investigation, there is no evidence to show that the disappearance of another missing man in the area is linked to this case.
Vernon Karl Otto was reported missing in 2018. His burned-out truck was found, but Otto has not been located.
Both Otto and Joseph had lived in the same house at different times and were Wildman's neighbours.
Wildman was being transported back to Manitoba.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 18, 2021.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said Wildman was missing.