An arrest has been made in what could be a connection involving the case of four individuals found dead near the Emerson, MB border on Wednesday.
RCMP in Manitoba say four individuals were found frozen to death Wednesday morning. The four include an adult male, an adult female, a male believed to be in his mid-teens and an infant.
At 9:23 am, RCMP officers with the Integrated Border Enforcement Team received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States. Officers were told that the US Customs and Border Protection had apprehended a group of individuals who had crossed by foot into the United States from Canada. Officers were told that one of the adults had items meant for an infant, yet no infant was with that group.
A search was immediately launched on both sides of the border. Police say extensive patrols were conducted and at approximately 1:30 pm, the bodies of three individuals were located on the Canadian side of the border, approximately 10 kilometres east of Emerson. They have been identified as an adult male, an adult female and an infant.
Fearing there may be additional victims, officers continued their search and located the body of an additional male, believed to be in his mid-teens. All victims were located approximately 40 feet from the Canada/US border. Police say it appears they all died due to exposure to the cold weather
According to court documents, on January 19, 2022, the US Border Patrol (USBP) based out of Pembina, North Dakota, initiated a traffic stop on a white-coloured, fifteen-passenger van less than one mile south of the US/Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry located at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota.
The driver of the vehicle was identified as Steve Shand, 47, a US citizen. Law enforcement asked for identification of the two passengers in the van and determined them to be undocumented Indian nationals.
Law enforcement then discovered cases of plastic cups, bottled water, bottled juice and snacks located in the extreme rear of the passenger van. Law enforcement also discovered receipts dated January 18, 2022, for the drinks and snacks, and rental agreement receipts in Shand's name for the van, with the return date listed for January 20, 2022.
USBP arrested Shand for smuggling undocumented foreign nationals. While Shand and the two passengers were being transported to the Pembina Border Patrol Station in North Dakota, law enforcement encountered five additional Indian nationals approximately a quarter-mile south of the Canadian border walking in the direction of where Shand was arrested. They appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant located in St. Vincent, Minnesota.
The five Indian nationals explained that they had walked across the border expecting to be picked up by someone. The group estimated they had been walking around for over 11 hours. One of the group members was in possession of a backpack that did not belong to him.
He stated he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night. The backpack contained children's clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children's medication.
The dead bodies were then tentatively identified as the family of four that was separated. Two of the surviving Indian nationals sustained serious injuries and were transported to a hospital.
Shand is charged with one count of knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien had come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, having transported, and moved or having attempted to transport and move such aliens. The charges have not been proven in court.
He made his first appearance Thursday before US District Court Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer. Shand was ordered to remain in custody pending a preliminary and detention hearing, currently scheduled for January 24, 2022, at 3:00 pm before Magistrate Judge Bowbeer.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by US Customs and Border Protection and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant US Attorney Laura Provinzino is prosecuting the case