A police officer has been flown to Vancouver for medical treatment after being shot at and wounded in Haines Junction on Monday morning.
RCMP Cpl. Kim MacKellar’s “condition is stable and his wounds not believed to be life threatening,” said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Don Rogers at a press conference Tuesday. “But full extent of injuries are not known at this time.”
MacKellar was investigating a reported break-and-enter and assault at Madley’s General Store, just before 7 a.m. on Monday.
Madley’s employee Frank Parent had been beaten up and hit with bear spray during the robbery, and the store’s safe was stolen, according to court files.
During his investigation, MacKellar encountered a suspect vehicle.
He gave chase and was shot at, according to an RCMP release.
“A firearm is believed to have been discharged at the police vehicle,” said Rogers. “And injuries were sustained as a result of this action, but we can’t get into the specific nature of these injuries.”
Roughly three hours later, two suspects were caught near Pine Lake Campground by a traffic cop and a member of the RCMP forensics team, he said.
Christopher Cornell, 29, and Jessica Johnson, 21, both of Whitehorse, were charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault, use of a firearm during flight from robbery, assault with a weapon, robbery, assault causing bodily harm, break-and-enter and theft, and possession of stolen property over $5,000, said Rogers.
The stolen property over $5,000 is a vehicle, he added.
News of the Bonnie and Clyde-style crime had travelled as far as Atlanta, Georgia, by the next morning.
Yukon photographer Vanessa Falle was in Atlanta for a photo workshop when she got a call from family back home.
Falle’s black Chevrolet Blazer had been stolen during the night while her husband and kids were sleeping.
“There are a number of vehicles at the farm,” said Falle, who owns Yukon Sodbusters with her husband Ray. “But my vehicle was the only one with a full tank of gas, the others were all on fumes.”
It’s coming to the end of the season, and there’s no point putting away vehicles with full tanks of gas, she said.
Falle didn’t know it was her vehicle that ended up in the police chase until her brother, driving to Destruction Bay with a Nuway Crushing crew, saw a black Blazer in the ditch. Someone jotted down the licence plate number and it was Vanessa’s.
Fellow photographers at the workshop in Atlanta couldn’t believe the drama of it all.
“Stuff like this happens in big cities, or in the movies,” she said.
“You don’t expect it in the Yukon.”
Ray’s been living in the country for more than 40 years and has never had a vehicle stolen, he said.
“I figured it was someone trying to get to Dawson, or something, and we’d find it run out of fuel somewhere,” he said.
“But these were real criminals.”
Ray slept through the whole thing.
“And it’s a good thing I didn’t wake up,” he said.
“Because I would have gone out there, thinking they’d run off - but these guys would probably have shot me.”
The Falles’ Blazer is now in the RCMP’s possession.
“I’m not sure when we’ll get it back, and it’s probably trashed,” said Vanessa.
She had a lot of photo stands and other studio gear in the vehicle and hopes she can get some of that stuff out.
“I have a photo shoot this Friday,” she said.
Parts and cars are easy to replace, said Ray.
“Our biggest concern is for the officer.”
MacKellar’s wife and two teenage children are getting support and assistance from the RCMP.
The police cannot say more about MacKellar’s injuries because the defence counsel has requested a publication ban, said Rogers.
It’s possible the theft of Falle’s Blazer, the robbery at Madley’s, the serious assault of Parent and the shooting are only some of the crimes committed by Cornell and Johnson this week.
“There were a number of different instances,” said Rogers.
A boat and trailer belonging to Albert Schwarz were also stolen and damaged by Cornell earlier this month, according to court files.
“We are still gathering evidence and the investigation is continuing to see if more related instances or persons were involved,” said Rogers.
Cornell was prohibited from having bear spray and firearms, while Johnson’s involvement has resulted in a breach of probation, according to court files.
If anyone has information, please call the nearest RCMP detachment, Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS), or 911 where available to pass along the details.
Contact Genesee Keevil at