Escaped convict captured by police
Fugitive William Bicknell is back in police custody after officers say he engaged in a standoff in northern Alberta.
According to RCMP, the convicted murderer entered an elderly woman's residence north of Sexsmith around 7:30 a.m. Saturday. CTV is told the woman was held hostage until she managed to escape around 4 p.m. and alert authorities.
Police say a vehicle pursuit then began at the residence, ending about 24 kilometres away at Twp Rd 734 and RR 55.
Fifteen-year-old Cassandra Sorensen was travelling back to Grande Prairie with her Air Cadet group when she saw what's believed to be Bicknell's car swerve into the ditch.
"We looked back and saw the guy running up, this huge guy getting out of the vehicle, running around with a gun," she told CTV News in a phone interview.
"He was on the other side of the vehicle. We didn't know why he did it. We thought it was a drug bust. I guess it was because he was having a shootout with police, and we could kind of hear it."
The girl says as her bus continued down the highway, about 15 police cruisers, SWAT teams and at least one ambulance went by.
"I was kind of panicking a tiny bit as I saw those police cars go out there," she said.
"It was very scary and we had absolutely no idea until my friend's dad called and said it was the murderer and we were just blown away."
Police also say the standoff started after a vehicle entered the ditch. According to a media release, a five-year RCMP member posted out of Grande Prairie was shot upon and sustained non-life-threatening injuries.
The area was contained and RCMP say the escapee surrendered just after 8:00 p.m. Saturday.
"It's alleged that there was a number of firearms seized from the scene and that will form part of the investigation," said Insp. Peter Puszka.
Bicknell was taken to the Queen Elizabeth II hospital in Grande Prairie with undetermined injuries following his arrest. Police say he has since been flown to an Edmonton hospital for further medical treatment.
"We have some reports, not confirmed, that Bicknell may have been shot by police," said Randy Pike, the News Director of Q99 in Grande Prairie.
"Police say one shot was fired at a car - it struck the windshield. Fortunately the officer was not injured."
Bicknell, who was serving a life sentence for the second-degree murder of a B.C. woman, had been at large since police say he overpowered a guard while on an escorted pass from the Drumheller Correctional Facility on March 10th.
After allegedly gaining control of the vehicle he was riding in, officials say he held the Correctional Services employee hostage and made his way to Edmonton.
It was in Edmonton where authorities say the convict managed to obtain several firearms and a quantity of ammunition while the two continued to travel. At that point it's believed the pair headed to a rural residence in the Chipman area, northeast of Edmonton, where the prisoner allegedly forced his way into the residence and demanded keys to a vehicle from the homeowner. Police believe Bicknell knows the homeowner.
RCMP say charges are pending against Bicknell and confirm they've called in the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to investigate. The organization is responsible for reviewing all cases of serious injury or death that involve police.
Darrel Shymr lives close to where the takedown happened and says he's breathing easier now that Bicknell is no longer on the run.
"It's a relief for sure that he's gone, arrested, whatever, hopefully staying behind bars now," he said. "Stuff like that don't happen here everyday, that's for sure."
With Files from Sean Amato