Telus Tower Toppled Back
Ian Williams and Conal Mullen
Journal Staff Writers - 3/14/98

Leduc - Shots were fired Friday during a day-long standoff between RCMP and an armed man holed up in a truck in a farmer's field. The man, who sources say had recently lost his job, eventually surrendered.

The incident began about 4:30 a.m. Friday when Leduc RCMP spotted a truck they believed was driven by a local man wanted on warrants for obstruction of justice and uttering threats. Police considered the man to be suicidal, armed and dangerous.

Police followed a 1998 GMC Sierra one-tonne truck south of Leduc, where it was driven into a field and became stuck.

Earlier in the week, police said a threat had been made to "blow up" a Telus communications tower. They said they received information that a man would also "take his own life" in a dispute over a cellular telephone.

A 100-metre-high Telus microwave tower was later spotted lying crumpled in a field northwest of Calmar.

Police issued a warning to the public to stay away from free-standing Telus towers which are to be inspected to ensure they are safe.

During Friday's standoff, a source said the man's ex-wife, a friend and his daughter all made unsuccessful telephone pleas to the man to surrender.

Until he surrendered at 6:20 p.m., the man sat in the cab of the truck. He occasionally stumbled out, once to retrieve a can of gasoline strapped to the truck's back deck.

Police would not confirm reports the man had poured gasoline around the truck earlier in the morning.

However, firefighters and ambulances were seen hidden in a bushy area about a half a kilometre away from the standoff.

At about 2 p.m., blasts from a sawed-off shotgun ripped into a police robot that was attempting to reach the truck.

Police repaired the robot and sent it back in, but it was again shot at. While the man was away from the vehicle, RCMP shot out the passenger window. The truck's rear tires were also shot out.

Several times during the day the truck could be seen rocking as if there was an attempt to drive it out of the field.

Officers blockaded the gravel road to the north and south.

Meanwhile, neighbours of a downed Telus tower along a dead-end road 10 km northwest of Calmar reported hearing a bang about 3 a.m. on Friday.

Police were waiting to have the area checked over for a possible bomb, unsure if it was related to the standoff.

Some neighbours speculated one or more of the stabilizing cables might have been loosened or cut on the tower, which was not in use.

Robert Dobko, who farms across the road from the tower, says he heard a bang about 3 a.m. but didn't think much of it.

But he said his brother Randy noticed the crumpled tower and called Telus about 10:30 a.m.

Xxxxxxx Xxx Xxxxxxx, 44, of Leduc is to appear before a justice of the peace today. Charges are pending, police say.

- Edmonton Journal