‘We want the public to be very aware’: Manitoba RCMP search rural property for homicide suspect

Mounties are searching a rural property in southern Manitoba for a homicide suspect they say is armed and dangerous and may have clothing and gear resembling that used by police.

RCMP said Tuesday afternoon officers are scouring a property in the Rural Municipality of St. Clements, northeast of Winnipeg.

Read more: Suspect in Manitoba homicide is considered armed and may have police gear, RCMP warn

That’s the last place Clifford Joseph was seen when he left his home there on June 7.

Police say the 40-year-old’s disappearance is being investigated as a homicide and a warrant has been issued for the arrest of 34-year-old Eric Wildman.

A photo provided to media by RCMP shows what police say is a property being searched in the RM of St. Clements. RCMP Handout

“This began as a missing person investigation, it evolved into a homicide investigation,” Sgt. Laura Ledrew from the RCMP’s major crimes unit told Global News.

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Mounties warn that officers found police tactical equipment, patches and other items resembling officer uniforms when they searched his truck on Sunday.

They also found a significant number of firearms and ammunition in the truck.

Read more: Missing Manitoba man’s truck found abandoned, RCMP say

“At this time, we consider Eric Wildman to be dangerous and potentially armed,” RCMP Supt. Michael Koppang said in a news release.

Wildman was last seen in Winnipeg’s East Kildonan area, but Mounties said they are searching throughout southern Manitoba.

Ledrew told Global News RCMP believe Wildman was still in Winnipeg as of Tuesday afternoon.

RCMP say they found police gear in the suspect\’s vehicle. RCMP Handout
Weapons and ammunition seized by RCMP are shown in this recent police handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO — RCMP

Soon after Joseph was reported missing, RCMP found his 1997 Ford Ranger abandoned in a rural area. A police search-and-rescue team checked the area, but Joseph was never found.

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RCMP said that by the end of that week the evidence showed that Joseph’s disappearance was suspicious, so the major crimes unit took the lead.

Wildman soon became a suspect and officers searched his vehicle, the police said.

Read more: Manitoba RCMP now say St. Clements man’s disappearance suspicious

Inside, officers found guns and police gear. Images provided by RCMP of seized items show three firearms — one containing a scope — and a lot of ammunition.

There was also a black hat with “police” in bold white letters across the front, a police badge, an armoured vest, a high-visibility vest and what appeared to be police lights.

Ledrew said police don’t know if Wildman has any other police gear on him.

An arrest warrant has been issued for 34-year-old Eric Paul Wildman
An arrest warrant has been issued for 34-year-old Eric Paul Wildman. Manitoba RCMP

“We assume that …  perhaps he was planning on dressing like a police officer or impersonating a police officer,” Ledrew said.

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“It just creates a lot of dynamic and fear … we want the public to be very aware.”

Police haven’t said how they believe Joseph was killed or what exactly led to Wildman becoming a suspect. Ledrew said Joseph’s body has not been found.

Read more: Winnipeg police arrest three after man beaten to death, body hidden in home

Ledrew couldn’t say whether or not Joseph and Wildman were known to each other.

Wildman is described as six-feet-two-inches, weighing 170 pounds with blue eyes, and police say he is known to frequent Winnipeg and the RM of St Clements.

Police are asking Manitobans not to approach Wildman and to call 911 if he’s spotted, or the RCMP tip line at 431-489-8551 with information.

— With files from Joe Scarpelli

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Body found just north of Selkirk, Manitoba – Jun 8, 2016

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