It took some time before backup RCMP officers in a Northwest Territories town located a colleague who had been fatally shot while responding to a dispatch call, the RCMP acknowledged Tuesday.
Const. Christopher Worden was killed Saturday morning in Hay River, a small town about 400 kilometres south of Yellowknife. The suspect, Emrah Bulatci, 23, of Alberta, is considered armed and dangerous and remains at large.
Police received the call from an apartment building at 4:58 a.m. MT, and Worden, who was on call, was dispatched, police said. When police lost radio contact with him, two backup officers were sent and they found him in a wooded area suffering from gunshot wounds.
"I can say that it did take time for the members to locate him when they arrived at the scene," RCMP Sgt. Larry O'Brien told CBC News on Tuesday in an interview from Hay River.
The acknowledgement of a delay in finding Worden at the scene comes amid reports of residents in the community saying police did not arrive on the scene until almost an hour after gunshots were heard.
"Some people were wondering whether he could have been saved had he been located more quickly," the CBC's Joslyn Oosenbrug reported Tuesday from Hay River.
Bulatci, also known as Justin Elise, was last seen in Edmonton and just north of the Alberta capital, in St. Albert, police said Monday. He has blond hair, blue eyes, weighs about 135 pounds and is five feet tall.
Police said he should be considered armed and dangerous and is "associated" with a grey 2004 Ford Expedition SUV with the Alberta licence plate LEC 010.
O'Brien would not give further details on the investigation or the hunt for the suspect, who is believed to have fled the immediate area.
"At this time, our investigators are still trying to locate the man we've charged," he said. "We've notified all police agencies in Western Canada advising of this individual and the warrant for his arrest."
Drugs, violence have 'taken over' town: resident
Meanwhile Tuesday, flags in Hay River flew at half-mast as community members laid bouquets on the front lawn of the RCMP detachment and in the area where Worden was found.
People who live in the neighbourhood, which is known for its drug activity, told CBC News it has become increasingly violent in the last year.
"It's the crack and the cocaine that's just taken over this town," said Mark Lawsen, who lives a few doors up from the apartment complex where Worden was investigating.
"It's bad. There's people in and out of town. There's fights everywhere, baseball bats, homemade weapons."
The RCMP's O'Brien said it was up to the individual officer's discretion whether to take backup on each case, except on certain calls such as domestic disputes, where it is strongly advised. The Hay River detachment has nine officers at its disposal.
"As I can't speak to the nature of this complaint, I can't speak to Const. Worden's decision to go alone," he said.
Worden, originally from Ottawa, joined the Mounties in 2002 and served most of his career in the Northwest Territories. He was one of nine officers of the Hay River detachment.
Worden's wife, Jodie, mother of his infant daughter, spoke briefly Monday afternoon in Hay River, thanking Canadians for their support and requesting that she and her family be allowed now to grieve privately.
"While we're still in shock and disbelief that he's no longer with us, it gives us strength to know that we have the support of a nation that recognizes and appreciates the ultimate sacrifice that Chris and other men and women have made for them," she said.
She and relatives will head to Ottawa for the funeral, which will be held next Monday. Following the service, an RCMP memorial service for Worden will be held in Hay River.