A Manitoba woman and her two-year-old daughter are safe after stopping to help a man who was allegedly pretending to need help on the side of a road but who then jumped into their vehicle and demanded to be driven to Winnipeg, RCMP said Saturday.
Cpl. Julie Courchaine told a news conference that police were first called to a hotel parking lot in Portage la Prairie, west of Winnipeg, on Friday afternoon for a report of a man in a van who was acting erratically and possibly taking drugs.
Courchaine said police spoke with the man briefly before he put the van in gear, rammed a police vehicle, drove towards officers, and then rammed the police vehicle again before taking off.
A chase had to be abandoned when the van, which was allegedly stolen from Winnipeg, drove into oncoming traffic on Highway 1, Courchaine said.
Not long after, a 911 call came in from a person living just east of Portage la Prairie. The call got disconnected.
"But a male and a female voice could be heard before the phone went silent," Courchaine said.
Courchaine said the woman also managed to call her husband. He, too, called 911. Investigators spoke with him and also found the van abandoned, and they put the separate pieces together.
"She was driving in the area, saw this male in distress on the side of the road, pulled over to assist him, at which point he jumps in. She was able to make a call to her husband as well as that 911 call to us," Courchaine explained.
Investigators believed they were travelling to Winnipeg and Courchaine said police were in the process of issuing an Amber Alert when the woman called to say the man had fled the vehicle and she and her daughter were safe in Winnipeg's Polo Park neighbourhood.
Courchaine said the woman did not know the suspect. Neither the woman nor the child were physically hurt, she said, and no weapons were used.
The suspect was known to RCMP, she said.
"This was an extremely difficult situation and we would like to acknowledge the victim, who did everything she could to keep herself and her child safe," Courchaine said.
Police are now looking for Michael Stephen Klimchuk, 62, from Winnipeg, who is wanted on two charges of kidnapping, two charges of forcible confinement, abduction of a person under 14, three charges of assault with a weapon on a police officer, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and possession of stolen property over $5,000.
Klimchuk is five-foot-eight-inches tall, weighs approximately 220 pounds, has blue eyes, long brown hair, and was last seen wearing a camo jacket and light-coloured pants.
Courchaine said he's not believed to pose an imminent threat, but anyone who sees him or knows where he is should contact police immediately.
RCMP in Manitoba had tweeted a surveillance camera image of the suspect Friday night who they said they were trying to identify in connection with "a serious incident near Portage la Prairie," but there was no mention of the alleged kidnapping.
When asked about the delay in releasing the information, Courchaine told the news conference it took time for police to connect the various elements.