Story of the year runners up: Brandon teacher goes missing and RCMP shooting

A Brandon school teacher goes missing in the German mountains and four are arrested in the shooting of an RCMP officer near Onanole, Man.

Although the fire that ravaged four buildings in downtown Brandon May Long weekend garnered coverage from media outlets across the country, two other stories caught substantial attention from Westman Journal readers in 2018.

A Brandon School Division teacher went missing while hiking the “Dream Way” in Germany on Aug. 2. A little more than three weeks later, 32-year-old Jeffrey Freiheit’s body was found in a wooded area at the bottom of a ridge near Brauneck Mountain in the Bavarian Alps.

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The physical education teacher and Brandon University alumnus disappeared while hiking alone on a 570-kilometer trek from Munich, Germany to Venice, Italy. Freiheit, who was travelling alone at the time, was last seen on a post to his Instagram account. The avid outdoorsman who previously hiked to Mount Everest base camp, Peru’s Machu Picchu and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania did not reach Vorderriss where he had accommodations booked along his European venture.

On Aug. 19, Freiheit’s wife Selena and mother, Kathy, travelled to Germany to help in the effort to find their husband and son. The search had teams looking both in the air and on the ground, and included law enforcement officers and private citizens from Canada and Germany. Selena had last heard from Freiheit by FaceTime on Aug. 1.

Search teams focused on a particularly treacherous area of the Der Taumpfad (Dream Way) trail that contains dangerous rock overhangs, deep trenches and steep gulleys between the municipalities of Jachenau and Vorderiss.

On Aug. 25, Freiheit’s mother, another Canadian searcher and a local police officer found his body in a wooded area 60 meters below a ridge containing the trail. It was suspected Freiheit died instantly after falling off of the ridge, which is located south of Munich.

“From what we can tell at this stage, Jeff must have fallen between 50 and 60 meters from the ridgeline and died instantly,” the Youtube channel, Alpine Life, reported the next day.

“We strongly believe that Jeff would have suffered no pain and that his death would have been quick.”

RCMP officer shot, injured near Onanole

Four days after Freiheit was found, an Manitoba RCMP officer from the Yellowhead Detachment was shot in an incident near Onanole, Man. north of Brandon.

Two officers were responding to a report of a break and enter at a rural property near the town at around 9 p.m. Wednesday. The officers were fired upon as they got out of their cruiser, with a shot striking one of the policeman. The officer, RCMP Corporal Graeme Kingdon, was transported to hospital in Winnipeg while other members of the RCMP were deployed to the area where they arrested three suspects.

A fourth man remained at large until about 1 p.m. Thursday when police surrounded a residence in Neepawa, Man. about an hour away from the site where the shooting took place. He was soon apprehended about two hours later.

A Sandy Bay First Nation man was charged with two counts of attempted murder and other offinses related to the incident. Three others from Portage la Prairie, Man. faced various charges including break and enter, weapons-related offenses and possession of property obtained by crime over $5000. A total of 21 charges were filed against the quartet.

The suspects were 18-year-old Therae Racette-Beaulieu, 21-year-old Tommy Edward Beaulieu, 23-year-old Shane Donovan Beaulieu and Delaney Marcus Houle, 23.

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