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This article was published 28/5/2019 (408 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It started when police spotted a bicyclist who nearly caused several collisions by veering in and out of traffic – and it ended with the largest-ever seizure of homemade guns in Winnipeg and the arrest of the person accused of building them.
The seizures are also part of an increasing number of firearms seizures in recent years, as well as seeing Manitoba lead the nation in the number of violent crimes with a firearm being present.
Police Insp. Ian Waddell, of the organized crime division, said on Tuesday that officers were able to seize 11 homemade firearms – police call them "improvised firearms" or "zip guns" – after a search of a home in the 500 block of Maryland Street late Sunday night.
"It is the largest (seizure) to date to get this many improvised firearms at one time at one place," Waddell said. "This is the reality of the street. It is much easier to manufacture them than to get a legitimate firearm.
"The improvised firearms are capable of acting like a regular firearm... (and) what is concerning is two of the improvised firearms were loaded."
Waddell said the weapons – constructed with materials such as pipes, parts from stolen bicycles and springs – could also injure the person making them or using them.
"It is clearly an individual responsible for manufacturing," he said. "They are not only manufacturing but putting them in the hands of criminals."
Waddell said the police service's Guns and Gangs unit was patrolling around Balmoral Street and Cumberland Avenue when they spotted the bicyclist at about 6 p.m.
He said officers tried to speak to the man, but he fled on his bike.
When officers followed, saw him pick up the bike, and spotted a homemade firearm in his waistband, they chased him into the home and arrested him and a woman there. A few hours later officers came back with a search warrant.
Police also seized a .22-calibre bolt-action prohibited firearm, about one gram of methamphetamine, and various power saws and tools to cut through metal to fashion the homemade firearms.
Leslie Randolph Beaulieu, 27, has been charged with several offences including weapons manufacturing and trafficking. A woman who was in the home, Krista Marie Roulette, 38, has been charged with possessing a firearm knowing its possession was unauthorized. Both have been detained in the Winnipeg Remand Centre.
Meanwhile, Waddell said 773 firearms were seized by police in 2016, but that has jumped sharply to 1,747 seized last year. He also said that, while across the country there were 25 victims of firearm-related violent crime per 100,000 people, in Manitoba the rate is 48 victims per 100,000 population.
"That's nearly double the Canadian average," he said.
Waddell said homemade guns are now the second most commonly-seized type of crime gun, after sawed-off firearms. He said they have jumped from having three seized in 2016, to 52 in 2018, and to 31 seized so far this year.
"We're asking for the public to call us," he said. "We can all play a role in making sure firearms don't fall into the wrong hands."
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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