Ft. Smith: Stand-Off in a Small Place

Record high temperatures drew T-shirt clad residents of Fort Smith outside in droves to enjoy the sunshine on Sunday afternoon, but there was one place people could not go, no matter how much they wanted to.

Field Street, a moderately quiet residential area in the centre of town, was the focus of civic attention from 1:30 p.m. Sunday until early Monday morning while RCMP responded to a man who had allegedly barricaded himself in his home while possibly armed.

Officers, with weapons drawn, patrolled outside the residence while police cruisers stationed themselves at each end of the block that intersects with Caribou Crescent, warning traffic to stay clear of the area.

A police dog unit from Hay River and the Territorial Emergency Response Team out of Yellowknife were both dispatched to aid the Fort Smith detachment.

According to Sam Holm, media liaison for the NWT RCMP’s southern division, no one was harmed during the lengthy standoff.

“The situation was ongoing through the night. At approximately 6:30 a.m. this morning the situation was resolved peacefully, with the individual turning himself over to RCMP custody,” Holm said Monday.

Though the road was blocked off surrounding the residence, that didn’t stop many curious passersby — drawn by the flashing blue and red lights, or from what they heard over social media or their police scanners — from trying to get a peek at the action.

“There were a lot of rumours on Facebook being reported to us that were false,” Holm said. “There was a fair amount of foot traffic, vehicle traffic of people trying to see what was going on. But with the assistance of the Fort Smith RCMP members, we tried to keep the scene contained and secured… With the precautions in place, as long as people were cognizant of the situation, we didn’t have public safety concerns.”

Several residents near the home in question were notified of the situation and advised to stay indoors. Melanie Morse, a homeowner just a few doors down from the incident, said she was asked to park on a side street and escorted in by police officers after she came back from an afternoon walk and was surprised to see cops with guns on her street.

“The police were very serious. They were like, ‘Go, go, keep driving,’ and wouldn’t let me go home at all. So I just left for a while and when I came back later… they made me park my car and walked me in and told me not to leave the house again until they were done,” Morse said.

Though the incident was a surprise to see on her smalltown street, Morse said she felt the entire event was handled well and neighbours protected.

“It makes you feel safer, that [the police] are trained for the big situations and totally know what they’re up to, that they have control over the situation,” she said.

“But it’s definitely a little bit weird not to leave your house and think that the road could be a risky place to be… It’s not something that we’re accustomed to in Canada.”

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