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CANUPAWAKPA DAKOTA FIRST NATION — Police say they have no suspects in the stickup of this community’s gaming centre, but one of the three robbers yelled out a patron’s name during the job, suggesting at least one of them is known to the area.
"I think it would be a fair lead," said Insp. Conrad DeLaronde of the Dakota Ojibway Police Service, although he wasn’t personally aware of the detail.
In the cover of darkness just after midnight Tuesday, three masked people quietly walked into the gaming centre in the RM of Pipestone, one wielding a double-barrel shotgun, another a .22-calibre rifle and the third armed with a knife.
After one suspect shot off what was likely a warning shot, the trio made off with an estimated $7,000 to $10,000 and some cigarettes.
DOPS is leading the investigation, with help from the RCMP’s Identification Unit, and has shied away from revealing many details.
Colby Wombdiska-Bell was with his mom and brother when the ordeal began, and he told the Brandon Sun how he remembered the robbery unfolding.
It was just after midnight and the crowd was sparse when the suspects entered. The centre’s cashier and two security guards were among the few employees on duty.
"They went straight to the cashier," Wombdiska-Bell said.
A shot rang out and a bullet hit the floor of a hallway leading to a meeting room. No one was hit but the shot was in the general direction of a security guard, who was told by the suspects to put up his hands.
Wombdiska-Bell said everyone, including the security guards, escaped through a back door, each person running in a different direction into the darkness.
While trying to flee across a field behind the centre, he turned around and saw his mom had fallen and one of the suspects had her at gunpoint just outside the building.
The gunman yelled her name and told her to "get the fuck back in there or I’ll kill you," Wombdiska-Bell recalled.
After Wombdiska-Bell ran to his uncle’s house and called the police, his mother eventually escaped unharmed. Police interviewed witnesses until at least 5 a.m.
Canupawakpa Chief Delbert Cruise got the call from police at about 1:30 a.m.
The nearly windowless building is outfitted with several security cameras and patrolled by two security guards, but Cruise said security could be better, pointing to recent "cutbacks."
"There should be more lighting and more cameras."
The gaming centre, with its 20 video lottery terminals, brings in between $600,000 and $1 million each year for the band — a substantial chunk of its $3-million annual budget, he said.
The First Nation is home to about 350 on-reserve residents and about the same off-reserve.
Cruise said he was told there was an attempted robbery at the gaming centre a few years back, but otherwise it hasn’t been a target.
A similar situation unfolded on the evening of Jan. 24, 2013 at Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation, about 60 kilometres northwest of Minnedosa.
A lone man, wearing a balaclava and armed with a gun, had entered the facility demanding cash and cigarettes. He fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cigarettes and cash. There were no injuries and the man was eventually caught, charged and convicted.
DOPS is asking for anyone with information relating to the Canupawakpa robbery to contact them at 204-854-2953 or Manitoba Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
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