Police say Alberta prisoner’s escape aided by masked men ‘unusual’

It was a scene right out of a TV crime drama when an armed, masked gunman stopped two Alberta correctional officers and freed a prisoner on his way to a medical appointment.

PEACE RIVER — It was a scene right out of a TV crime drama when an armed, masked gunman stopped two Alberta correctional officers and freed a prisoner on his way to a medical appointment.

Mounties say guards were escorting Harley John Lay, 29, to the hospital in Peace River on Monday when they were confronted in the hospital parking lot.

The gunman and Lay jumped into a minivan driven by a third man and the trio hightailed it out of town.

“As of right now we do believe it was a planned escape and we’re continuing the investigation … trying to locate him and any associates he’s with,” Peace River RCMP Const. Nicole Viergutz said Tuesday.

“It’s pretty unusual in my experience anyway.”

The beige Dodge van had no visible licence plate and was last seen heading toward Highway 2.

Police don’t believe that Lay poses a risk to the public, but are discouraging anyone from approaching him or the people he may be with.

Viergutz said Lay “does have matters before the courts,” but declined to discuss his background further.

Court records indicate he most recently was behind bars facing numerous charges, including unlawful confinement, dating back to last July. He also faced a charge of escaping lawful custody in 2011 and has previously served time for drug trafficking.

Alberta correctional officers do not carry firearms.

The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees informed its members about what happened on the union website.

Both guards involved have been offered counselling and a union leader said the escape highlights the dangers corrections workers face every day.

“It is a dangerous job. You never know what’s going to happen. We’re fortunate nobody got hurt and that’s due to the professionalism of these officers,” said Erez Raz, a union vice-president and a correctional officer himself.

Raz said correctional officers have not been equipped with firearms since the 1970s and the decision is totally up to the Alberta government. He doesn’t think it would have made a difference in this case.

“If someone comes up to you with a gun to your head and says, ‘Give me what you have,’ I don’t think I’m going to pull a gun on him knowing he’s got a gun facing me,” Raz said.

“It would have caused a lot more damage than good. It could have escalated right from there.”

The union has called for a full report, including a “hazard assessment” of what occurred.

“It’s where the employer sits down with the affected workers to debrief, and look at what occurred, and identify the risks and the controls that will be put into control as a consequence of what occurred,” said health and safety representative Dennis Malayko.

Just Posted

Supporters dance during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror, Alta., on Saturday, May 8, 2021. RCMP say they have ticketed four people after the rally that was attended by hundreds.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leadership responsible for protests against public health orders: expert

EDMONTON — A criminologist says a recent court order that allows Alberta… Continue reading

Proceeding with Agri-Trade in the current climate would have been financially risky for Westerner Park and likely for many of the event’s exhibitors, says Westerner Park CEO Mike Olesen. (Advocate file photo.)
Westerner Park pleased with city deal, eagerly awaiting news on Westerner Days

The collective sigh of relief may have been simply metaphorical for Westerner… Continue reading

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.
Kenney distances himself from caucus vote to turf dissidents with ‘personal agendas’

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says he kept his distance in… Continue reading

Rental units in Red Deer continued to be some of the most affordable in Canada, according to the National Rent Report from Rental.ca. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Red Deer rent up year over year, still among lowest in Canada

Rent in Red Deer is up nearly six per cent but is… Continue reading

Bo’s Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening. (Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

People participate in an Eid al-Fitr ceremony in Overpeck County Park in Ridgefield Park, N.J., Thursday, May 13, 2021. Millions of Muslims across the world are marking a muted and gloomy holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan - a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Ramadan drives donations, memberships to giving circles

Sahina Islam can still recall the day when she heard an elderly… Continue reading

.
Pandemic record for Manitoba: Province reports 560 new COVID-19 cases

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government reported a record 560 new COVID-19 cases… Continue reading

Alberta’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. A judge is expected to rule this morning on a challenge of the United Conservative government’s inquiry into whether foreign groups have conspired against Alberta’s oil industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Judge dismisses attempt to quash ‘anti-Alberta’ activities inquiry

CALGARY — A judge has dismissed an attempt to quash the United… Continue reading

Unifor National President Jerry Dias is seen at a meeting in Toronto, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020. The head of the country’s largest private-sector union says Parliament should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and possibly put future increases into the hands of an independent commission. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Business, labour groups clash at Senate committee over $15 federal minimum wage

OTTAWA — The head of the country’s largest private-sector union says Parliament… Continue reading

In this file photo dated Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, doses of AstraZeneca vaccines for COVID-19 sit in vials at the Fiocruz Foundation after being bottled in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Some health experts are questioning Canada's decision to accept thousands of doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine this week just for them to sit in freezers in an Ontario warehouse because provinces have shunned the idea of using any more of them for first doses. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Bruna Prado, FILE
Experts call on Canada to use COVAX doses of AstraZeneca or give them back

OTTAWA — Some health experts are questioning Canada’s decision to accept thousands… Continue reading

In this image from video, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, April 23, 2020. A U.S. lawmaker who has made a political crusade out of getting the border with Canada reopened is once again pressing his case with President Joe Biden. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-House Television via AP
New CDC guidance makes it clear: time to reopen Canada-U.S. border, congressman says

WASHINGTON — A U.S. lawmaker who has made a political crusade out… Continue reading

A used protective face mask is seen discarded on the ground in Vancouver, B.C. in May 2020. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Medical exception letters required for Albertans who don’t wear masks in public areas

EDMONTON — Alberta has moved to close loopholes people might use as… Continue reading

Most Read