A gunman is on the loose after a routine traffic stop in Edmonton erupted into gunfire.
City police pulled over a 1988 Toyota 4Runner around 9 p.m. Sunday evening due to an unspecified "anomaly" with the vehicle, Edmonton Police Deputy Chief Brian Simpson said. The Toyota was pulled over blocks away from the West Division police station, with a man and a woman inside, police say.
Moments later, police say the man started shooting at police. "We're talking a matter of seconds," Deputy Chief Simpson said.
Police returned fire as the vehicle fled. They didn't give chase, thinking one of their officers had been hurt, though none of the four officers on scene were injured.
The Toyota was found nearby two hours later – police wouldn't say precisely where – but the man and woman remained on the run Monday, prompting police to urge witnesses to come forward.
"We believe there should have been people that might have seen or heard something at least," Deputy Chief Simpson said, adding it had been a few years since Edmonton police found themselves in a shootout. "It's Christmas time, this is family time, it's a special time of year. I'm just grateful to hear our officers are safe, and the rest of it we'll figure out."
Gunfights are rare, but remain a threat, with Deputy Chief Simpson concerned about the number of guns available to criminals. "The reality is they're out there, and they do pose a danger to our police officers," he said.
It's possible the man, who had the gun, or the woman could have been injured, but the examination of the Toyota "doesn't indicate that," Deputy Chief Simpson said. No bystanders were injured.
The officers met with support teams and the Deputy Chief Monday, but don't plan on missing time. "Bottom line is the officers are fine. They actually want to get back to work," he said.
Police have only a brief description of the suspect – white, around 25 years old with spiky hair – and no description of the woman he was with. But they hope to make an arrest. "Our officers were shot at. We have a lot of resources at our disposal, and we will do what we can to identify the individuals responsible," Deputy Chief Simpson said.
This year, Statistic Canada ranked Edmonton's violent crime rate as Canada's sixth-highest, behind Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Thunder Bay, Regina and Abbotsford. That included a record 48 homicides in 2011 for Edmonton. There have been 27 homicides in the city of 800,000 so far in 2012.