Whitehorse Daily Star

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RCMP Supt. Lindsay Ellis

Residents believe homicides are drug-related: mayor

Mayo Mayor Trevor Ellis says the general assumption in the community is that last Saturday’s shooting deaths in of two Whitehorse men are drug-related.

By Chuck Tobin on March 14, 2023

Mayo Mayor Trevor Ellis says the general assumption in the community is that last Saturday’s shooting deaths in of two Whitehorse men are drug-related.

He said in an interview Monday afternoon there is quite a bit of shock and anger in the community over the shootings.

There is not the grief and anguish that there would have been had the two deceased been local, he said.

The victims are Ben Symington, 35, and Michael Bennett, 22, both of Whitehorse.

Ellis said he is planning a community town hall meeting for next Monday, as this week is the first of two weeks of the spring school break and not everyone is available.

“I hope to have a townhall for people to come and talk,” he told the Star.

“I do not know if we are going to get any solutions, but at least people can gather here and talk.”

He said the community has come full-circle, having seen suicides and violence, and now a double murder.

“They are getting tired,” he said.

RCMP Supt. Lindsay Ellis said this morning police have not made any arrests in connection with the murders.

She said she could not divulge whether they have identified a suspect because the matter remains under investigation. Nor could she say if police believe the shooter is still in the Yukon.

The RCMP have been adamant in sharing their belief that they do not believe there is any immediate danger to the public at this time.

“The Mayo detachment and Yukon RCMP Major Crime Unit again are grateful for the co-operation from the community of Mayo, and the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun to date with respect to this investigation,” Supt. Ellis said.

“RCMP encourage anyone to contact investigators with any information that they may have around this incident, or individuals involved, including those responsible. The information may seem insignificant, but it may be critical to our investigation.”

The police received a report of the homicides at 9:13 a.m. last Saturday, shortly after the deceased were discovered.

It’s believed the shootings occurred around 5 a.m., given the accounts of nearby residents who heard shots at that time.

The RCMP Major Crime Unit was still in Mayo today. The investigation is focused on the road leading to the C-6 subdivision, where the two deceased were discovered, and the subdivision.

The police have not described the two murders as being drug-related, but that is the assumption in the village, Mayor Ellis said.

In a statement released last Sunday, police did say they are aware of the impact of the substance use emergency in Mayo, just as they are aware of the substance use issues in other Yukon communities.

The RCMP say they believe the two deceased were in the community for a week, since March 4.

The police are asking anyone who had any contact with the deceased to contact the RCMP, no matter how trivial the communication may have been.

The mayor said he had seen the 2010 Ford Escape vehicle seized by police a number of times over the week while he was out for his daily walks and had actually waved to the occupants.

The men, he said, did not likely stay in a hotel, suggesting somebody invited them to the central Yukon community and gave them a place to stay.

The mayor said he believes the RCMP will determine where the men were staying.

“I am pretty confident the RCMP will look at every angle.”

Simon Mervyn, the chief of the First Nationof Na-Cho Nyak Dun, did not return the Star’s call Monday.

These are the territory’s second and third homicides of 2023.

Aaron Smarch, 35, of Carcross, was murdered on Feb. 2 in the Fourth Avenue-Ogilvie Street area of downtown Whitehorse.

Norman Kendi, 18, has been charged with first-degree murder. He was arrested the night of Feb. 6.

A 17-year-old person has also been charged with first-degree murder in connection with Smarch’s death.

Under the federal Youth Criminal Justice Act, the minor’s name cannot be published.

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