A seemingly routine lunch for two young Byemoor women last Saturday ended in an ordeal they likely won’t forget in their lifetime.
In what was to be a “quick bite to eat,” for Kary Lyn Keith and Rebecca Schofer at the Toad ’n’ Turtle pub and restaurant in Airdrie turned into a four – and – a – half – hour standoff between heavily-armed police officers and two robbery suspects.
The Airdrie Echo reported the two men were suspected of committing multiple robberies and a hit-and-run in Calgary. They attempted to hide out from police by accessing the rooftop patio of the restaurant.
“It was a little unnerving,” said the 26-year-old Schofer.
“You never know what to expect in something like this.”
Keith, 25, who works at the Stettler mental health office, said the mood of the 50 restaurant patrons sequestered inside the building “was mostly calm, but there was a range of emotions.”
“There were some scary moments,” she said.
Keith said that initially, they could see the sniper on the roof of the building across the street, along with officers in swat-gear and an armoured police vehicle. When they were told to move to the side of the building with no windows, some people feared something “serious” was about to happen, Keith said.
Later, they heard what they thought sounded like smoke bombs exploding on the roof.
“That was a bit scary,” Keith said.
At one point, Keith said, the police stormed in with guns raised, believing the suspects had entered the building and they were checking out people’s faces.
Schofer said the roof of the Toad ’n’ Turtle was under reconstruction and covered in tarps. The fugitives apparently got under the tarps, out of police sight, and were believed to be holed up under the roof.
“This ordeal totally restored my faith in the police,” Keith said.
“They handled the situation well and kept us informed on what was going on.”
The two women, both expectant mothers, were able to make contact with their husbands in Byemoor — Tyson Keith and Lenard Schofer — by sending text messages.
Schofer said that while about half of the people seemed concerned, others treated it lightly.
“Some of the younger men were upset that alcohol wasn’t being allowed to be served,” she said.
Keith noted the lengthy stalemate, from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., was a bit much for the smokers to handle — some were smoking in the washrooms to ease their tensions.
Const. Jen Morin of the Airdrie RCMP told the Airdrie Echo that two men went on a crime spree in northeast Calgary on Saturday morning. The pair then drove to Airdrie and crashed their white pickup truck on the off-ramp from Highway 2 to Yankee Valley Boulevard.
Const. Morin said witnesses told police that two men ran up a small hill and across a field from the off-ramp to the strip mall area near the pub.
During their surveillance of the area, police were told by other witnesses that two men were on the roof of the pub.
“At that point, we immediately contained the scene,” Const. Morin said.
“We activated our emergency response team out of Calgary. They got here as quick as they could, as well as our police dog services.
Calgary Police Service also attended to assist, as well as Airdrie Municipal Enforcement to assist us with traffic.” A sniper was placed on a rooftop across from the pub and multiple officers sporting body armour, riot shields and brandishing assault-type weapons were seen both on the roof of the pub and around both sides of the building.
A small, helicopterlike drone flew above and around the building for most of the afternoon, presumably taking pictures of the suspects. A large camouflaged armoured police vehicle was also seen moving on the south side of the building.
A loud bang was heard at about 4:15 p.m., presumably from a stun-type grenade. Eventually, police moved in and arrested the pair without incident.
“It was the best outcome we could have hoped for,” Const. Morin said. Keith said that when she got home, her husband told her, “Now we have a story to tell our baby.”
“That part might be cool,” Keith said, “but I am glad it’s over and it is just a story now.”