This investigation truly began 11 days ago, on Monday, June 7, when the Manitoba RCMP received a report that 40-year-old Clifford Joseph was missing.
A few days after that initial call, it became clear to us that the disappearance was suspicious in nature. We engaged the public and asked for help right from the start of this investigation. Further investigation led our officers to determine that Eric Paul Wildman, 34, from the RM of St. Clements was a person of interest in the disappearance.
On June 11, we located Eric Wildman's vehicle. A search warrant was obtained, and the vehicle was searched on June 13. It is during this search, that officers found firearms, police style tactical equipment, police patches, other items resembling police clothing and red/blue lights that could be affixed to the interior of a vehicle.
As the investigation progressed and further evidence was gathered, the increased risk to public safety became apparent. As the risk assessment escalated, so too did the public alerts as this manhunt began. The Manitoba RCMP utilized significant human and technical resources in attempts to locate Mr. Wildman.
Wildman was formally charged with Unsafe Transportation of a Firearm and Possession of a Prohibited Device without a Licence and more charges are expected.
Even with our best efforts, and the direct assistance of the Winnipeg Police Service and the OPP, police simply do not have the numbers to surveil all of Manitoba's vast areas. In these situations, the public's help is essential. The search took our officers to locations across southeastern Manitoba and specialized units were brought in to assist. These specialized units included our Emergency Response Team, Air Services, Police Dog Services, Forensic Identification, Intelligence Analysts and Major Crime Services.
There were confirmed and credible sightings of Eric and the vehicle on June 11 in Winnipeg and June 15 in Lockport as well as a sighting of the vehicle in the early evening of June 16 in the Whitemouth area. During this week, we investigated numerous tips that led us to similar vehicles and suspicious occurrences.
Yesterday evening the OPP received 3 reports of a vehicle with the matching license plate at a residence just outside of Belleville, Ontario. Well informed of the risk, the OPP deployed tactical resources to secure the residence. Throughout last night the RCMP Major Crimes Investigators worked with their OPP counter-parts to assist in preparing a warrant.
During the execution of that warrant, in the early hours of this morning, shots were fired at the OPP officers. After a protracted negotiation, the OPP safely ended the situation through negotiations, resulting in the arrest of Mr. Wildman and another male occupant of the residence. No one was hurt during this operation. RCMP officers from Major Crime Services are in Ontario now with the OPP to determine next steps.
Many questions were posed over the week about why the RCMP did not utilize our provincial Alert ready capability. I want to take this opportunity to directly answer those questions. At no time during this investigation did we have the requisite knowledge of the specific risk that Mr. Wildman posed, a location where that risk might manifest itself, or a specific target of that risk. Without this, we would simply be raising fear without any possibility of mitigating the risk.
I can say, that there were at least three occasions this week where senior leaders were prepared to activate the alert ready system, but the tips associated to those situations turned out to be unrelated to our investigations. The most recent was yesterday morning in Hadashville. We are fully prepared to activate this system in appropriate situations, but these situations did not present themselves in this investigation.
I want to thank the public and the media for your assistance. We released all relevant information at the earliest possible time to both inform the public and protect the ongoing investigation. I can confirm that it was through this national media coverage that ultimately resulted in residents of Ontario identifying the vehicle and promptly notifying the police.
On behalf of the investigative team, I want to thank all Manitobans who took the time to call in tips, and I would also like to thank every RCMP employee who worked tirelessly on this search as well as our brothers and sisters in the Winnipeg Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police for their work. They were always there when we needed them.