A nephew and uncle, laid off from their jobs amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, were gunned down on a rural Canadian backroad while hunting moose to feed their families.
Jacob Sansom, 39, and Maurice Cardinal, 57, were found shot to death on a remote stretch of road near Glendon, Alberta last week, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Anthony Bilodeau, 31, has since been arrested in connection with the double-murder of the Métis men.
The shooting occurred around 9:30 p.m. on March 27 on a country road about 130 miles northeast of Edmonton, Alberta.
Sansom and Cardinal, who parked their Dodge Ram on the road for unknown reasons, encountered another vehicle, and became entangled in a “dispute” with that vehicle's occupants, police said. Soon after, Bilodeau allegedly pulled up to the scene in a third vehicle and fired “several shots” at Sansom and Cardinal, killing the two hunters.
“Anthony was in the third vehicle,” Sergeant Jason Zazulak, of Alberta RCMP’s Serious Crimes unit, told Oxygen.com. “The altercation between the victims and the occupants of the second vehicle was underway when Anthony arrived.”
Investigators said video surveillance helped pinpoint Bilodeau as the suspected killer. He turned himself into a Bonnyville RCMP detachment on March 31. Authorities subsequently seized a firearm they suspect was used in the shooting and are currently running forensics on the gun. Bilodeau was charged with two counts of second-degree murder.
A motive for the shooting hasn’t officially been released by investigators, and detectives don’t believe Sansom or Cardinal knew Bilodeau prior to the attack. However, investigators confirmed Bilodeau was acquainted with the individuals who initially engaged the nephew and uncle from second vehicle.
Sansom and Cardinal both found themselves unemployed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and were hunting to provide for their family. Hours before their murder, the pair had shot a moose, which they delivered to other relatives, friends said.
“Jake and his uncle went hunting due to the fact that getting laid off from their jobs up north in regards to this whole pandemic, COVID-19, going on,” Ryan Wagner, Sansom’s friend, told Oxygen.com. “They wanted to get food for the families and wait out the pandemic and have food available for the families.”
Some have questioned whether the backwoods shooting of the two indigenous men was racially motivated, local outlet The National Post reports.
Tensions between indigenous and rural, predominantly white, communities have historically simmered in Western Canada. Pipeline protests, as well as the highly publicized shooting of Aboriginal teenager Colton Boushie — which many compared to the Trayvon Martin shooting — have also led to several clashes in recent years.
However, Canadian investigators squashed any speculation that racial bias factored into the shooting.
“There’s nothing to suggest at this time that it was racially motivated, targeted, anything like that,” Zuzulak explained. “The ethnicity of the parties here as far as the investigators have learned had nothing to do with the altercation or offen[s]es."
The RCMP declined to comment further on the case on Friday.
Sansom, a volunteer fireman and motivational speaker, worked as a heavy duty mechanic and technician in northern Alberta. He lived in Nobleford.
“It’s a tragedy,” Wagner added. “For me, it was senseless.”
Wagner, who also serves as fire chief for the Nobleford Fire Department, cultivated a friendship with Sansom at the firehall. Sansom, who previously fought wildfires, joined the fire department as a volunteer firefighter about three years ago. The fire chief described him as a “quiet,” “friendly,” and “caring” person who was “easy to talk to.”
“He had a lot of heart,” Wagner said. “He joined the fire service to help people.”
Sansom was married with three young children. The two firefighters’ kids are roughly the same ages, Wagner said.
Bilodeau is scheduled to appear in provincial court via teleconference on April 9, authorities said. Officials said the 31-year-old Glendon man wasn’t known to local law enforcement.
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