Chase of suspicious SUV ends with 11 occupants charged with breaking COVID-19 law

LOON LAKE, Sask. — Police in Saskatchewan say 11 people face charges of violating new COVID-19 restrictions on the size of public gatherings after officers chased and arrested occupants of a suspicious SUV.

RCMP say they received a report early Friday about a suspicious person who was knocking on the door of a home in Loon Lake.

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They got a description of a vehicle associated with the person — a 2000 GMC Yukon SUV — which police allege was stolen.

It was later spotted on a grid road and wouldn't stop, and police say that while numerous officers chased it, the occupants threw items out the window, including a bag of weapons.

The SUV eventually ended up in a ditch, but police say several people jumped out during the chase, and one-by-one they were taken into custody.

In addition to charges including possession of stolen property, flight from a peace officer and weapons charges, the 10 adults and one youth are also charged with failure to comply the Saskatchewan Public Health Act, which prohibits gatherings of more than 10 people without maintaining a two-metre distance between people.

"Individuals choosing to continue gathering in contravention of the Saskatchewan Public Health Act place the Saskatchewan population, including Saskatchewan RCMP police officers, at risk of exposure to COVID-19," RCMP said in a news release.

RCMP in Saskatchewan say it's the first people they have arrested during the COVID-19 pandemic who have been charged with violating the restrictions under the new public health order, which took effect on Thursday.

Police say all of the accused have been released and must follow strict conditions in line with provincial COVID-19 isolation protocols. Those include staying inside an approved residence for 24 hours a day for 14 days, and immediately notifying the Saskatchewan Health Line if they develop symptoms of COVID-19.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 29, 2020.

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