Suspected drug dealer Victor Branco continues to evade police

UCCM Police thank the community for their ongoing assistance

M’CHIGEENG—For the third time in less than a year on Manitoulin Island, cell phones and radio waves were interrupted with the shrill cry of an emergency alert—police were investigating an armed and dangerous male on the M’Chigeeng First Nation. As such, residents in the area of Highway 551 and Spring Bay Road in that community were asked to shelter in place, but the emergency alert, broadcast Saturday afternoon at 12:25 pm, was a regional one.

Police were searching for 32-year-old Victor Branco, who ran from police when pulled over in M’Chigeeng on early Saturday morning. James Killeen, acting chief of police with the UCCM Anishnaabe Police, told The Expositor that police got word that Mr. Branco, known locally as ‘Dan,’ was at a residence in M’Chigeeng. Officers were monitoring the house, awaiting a search warrant that had been requested, but before it was approved, four people exited the house (among them the accused), got in Mr. Branco’s car and drove away. It was then that officers pulled the car over, with all the vehicle’s occupants then fleeing the scene. Three were captured and arrested, the other, Mr. Branco, evaded police. The car contained a large quantity of a white powder, believed to be either cocaine or fentanyl, which won’t be confirmed until test results are back to police.

Acting Police Chief Killeen told The Expositor that Mr. Branco’s presence was first made known to police at the start of the pandemic, during the spring of 2020. He is from Brazil and is in Canada on a work Visa and makes his home in the Greater Toronto Area.

On Saturday, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Emergency Response Team, K-9 unit and helicopter all assisted in the search. “We really saw the community helping out,” Inspector Killeen said, noting the many tips that flooded the M’Chigeeng police station as to Mr. Branco’s potential whereabouts. Those tips continue to be followed up on.

By Saturday night, OPP, assisting the investigation, announced the cancellation of the shelter-in-place alert, noting that the search continued for Mr. Branco but had been scaled back.

Inspector Killeen spent 23 years with Greater Sudbury Police, 16 of which were with that service’s drug enforcement unit. He started his new position at the UCCM Police as an inspector with its new Intelligence/Drug Enforcement/Major Crimes Unit one month ago and on Friday, was sworn in as the acting chief of police, the day prior to his incident.

He explained that Northern areas, such as Manitoulin, are becoming more and more popular as destinations to sell opioid product. The further North you go, the more money there is to be made as prices double from southern Ontario. Plus, rural communities mean less ‘heat’ from police on those bringing the drugs in.

“It’s all about supply and demand,” he said. “There’s no such thing as a drug pusher; no one’s pushing drugs, the demand is there.”

Inspector Killeen praised the community for coming together this past weekend. “We all need to work together. This stuff is killing our members,” he said of the drugs. “We can’t arrest our way out of the problem.”

The acting police chief is looking forward to creating more partnerships across the Island and offering more training opportunities to his UCCM force to help in the big task at hand.

Unsubstantiated sightings began to appear on social media, with reports of sightings of the alleged fugitive in Providence Bay, Wiikwemkoong, Little Current and even Massey, but as of press time Monday, Mr. Branco had yet to be found.

Acting Police Chief Killeen said they are getting tips that Mr. Branco is being kept hidden as well as contradictory information that he is long gone. A warrant for his arrest will be issued soon.