Alan Schmegelsky, father of Bryer Schmegelsky, poses for a photo during an interview with The Canadian Press in Mill Bay B.C. on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. RCMP have said that 19-year-old Kam McLeod and 18-year-old Bryer Schmegelsky are suspects in the shooting of Lucas Fowler of Sydney, Australia, his girlfriend Chynna Deese of Charlotte, N.C., and the death of another man who has yet to be identified publicly. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Laura Kane

B.C. murder suspect not a neo-Nazi, is more fascinated by Russia, dad says

Despite his son’s fascination with the collectibles, Schmegelsky said he didn’t believe his son identified as a neo-Nazi

A murder suspect who allegedly sent photographs of a swastika armband and a Hitler Youth knife to an online friend was not a Nazi sympathizer, but he did think the memorabilia was “cool,” says his father.

RCMP are investigating the photographs, which also show Bryer Schmegelsky, 18, in military fatigues, holding an airsoft rifle and wearing a gas mask. The man is a suspect along with Kam McLeod, 19, in three murders in British Columbia.

Alan Schmegelsky said Thursday that his son took him to an army surplus store about eight months ago in his small Vancouver Island hometown of Port Alberni, where the teen was excited about the Nazi artifacts.

“I was disgusted and dragged him out,” Schmegelsky said. “My grandparents fled the Ukraine with three small children during the Second World War.”

READ MORE: More than a week after 3 killed in northern B.C., suspect teens still at large

The teens are charged with second-degree murder in the death of one man and are suspects in the fatal shootings of a young couple. On Thursday, the manhunt was focused on the thick and boggy forests of northeastern Manitoba.

Despite his son’s fascination with the collectibles, Schmegelsky said he didn’t believe his son identified as a neo-Nazi.

“He thought he was Russian. Germans are their enemies,” he said.

The father, who is estranged from the teen’s mother, explained that he didn’t see his son between the ages of eight and 16, and during that time the boy came under the mistaken belief that he had Russian heritage.

He enjoys watching Russian rap videos, where the artists “wear Adidas and drink vodka,” Schmegelsky said, adding his son is a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and United States President Donald Trump.

“I argued with him about that, in a friendly manner,” the father said. “He liked strong speakers.”

Schmegelsky said it was possible his son went back to the store later to buy the memorabilia, but it’s also possible he took a photo in the store or it’s staged.

The army surplus store, called Harreson’s Military Store, has since closed and the former owner didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alfred Bergkvist, owner of “A” Company Military Surplus in nearby Coombs, said he purchased all of Harreson’s merchandise, including some Nazi material, when it closed.

Bergkvist said he didn’t recognize the red Nazi armband in the photograph but his store also stocked Hitler Youth knives identical to the one in the picture.

He recalled that two boys came into his store about three weeks ago and bought one of the replica knives that are inscribed with the German words for “blood and honour.”

“They were really excited about it,” he said, adding he didn’t know whether the pair were Schmegelsky and McLeod and he doesn’t have security cameras.

READ MORE: The latest in the hunt for two Port Alberni teens wanted for alleged murder

Schmegelsky allegedly sent the photos to a user of the video-game network Steam. The two suspects most recently logged onto their accounts 13 days ago, about the time they told family they were leaving Port Alberni in search of work.

Schmegelsky’s account shows he frequently played a shooting game called Russia Battlegrounds, and both young men’s Facebook pages were connected to an account called Illusive Gameing, which has a modified Soviet flag as its icon.

Herb Loomba, owner of the Redford Motel in Port Alberni, said the elder Schmegelsky stayed there about once a month while visiting his son, and he last saw the teen with his dad on his graduation day, wearing a nice suit.

Loomba said the news has disturbed everyone in the small, close-knit community.

“Anything happens, it feels like it’s happening in your own home,” he said.

Officers from the western provinces and Ontario were in the Gillam area of northern Manitoba to search for the teenagers on Thursday.

RCMP Cpl. Julie Courchaine said there were two confirmed sightings of the teens before an SUV police believe they had used to drive to Gillam was found burned out on Monday.

“There have been no stolen vehicles in that area,” she said. ”At this point in the investigation, we believe they are still in the area.”

The terrain is unforgiving, Courchaine said.

“There’s lots of dense bush, forest, swampy area, so it is very challenging,” she said.

Courchaine said more than 80 tips had come in over the last 40 hours alone.

RCMP have been asking people not to approach Schmegelsky and McLeod if they see them and to call police instead.

To the north, the mayor of Churchill — a community accessible only by rail, sea and air — warned residents to be on the lookout.

“We should all remain vigilant and report any and all suspicious activity directly to the RCMP,” Mike Spence said in a statement.

Police charged the two young men Wednesday in the death of University of British Columbia lecturer Leonard Dyck, whose body was found July 19 near their burned-out truck in northwestern B.C.

The bodies of Australian Lucas Fowler and his American girlfriend Chynna Deese were found four days earlier along a highway more than 450 kilometres from where Dyck was discovered.

— With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Gowns for Grads’ makes a milestone day more special

Initiative collects donated gowns for Central Alberta students preparing to graduate

Accused man in Stettler death seeking legal aid

Nicholas Johnson’s next court appearance is set for Feb. 13th

Mother, daughter event focuses on family connection

Unstoppable Mother Daughter Night Out: A fun evening for girls

Synchronized Skating National Qualifying Event hosted in Red Deer Alberta Jan. 25th-26th

The 2020 Mountain Regional Synchronized Skating Championships are part of the National qualifying system

The Stettler ATOM female team will be having a Hockey Fights Hunger Food Drive Feb. 8th

Drop off locations will include Canadian Tire, No Frills and Sobeys from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

UPDATE Human remains found in Manny’s Motel ruins

UPDATE RCMP Major Crimes Unit Investigate Fatal Fire in Wetaskiwin

‘Presumptive case’ of coronavirus in Canada confirmed by Ontario doctors

Man in his 50s felt ill on his return to Canada from Wuhan, China

‘My heart is going to bleed’: Bodies brought back to Canada following Iran plane crash

Remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi, were identified last weekend

Most Read