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PRIDDIS, Alta. - 49RCMP cordoned off a rural acreage southwest of Calgary on Friday following the death of a municipal peace officer who once posed as a mob boss while working undercover for the RCMP.
RCMP said retired Mountie Rod Lazenby of High River, Alta., was at the acreage enforcing bylaws for the Municipal District of Foothills.
Back in 2002, Lazenby was part of an elaborate sting operation in Ottawa where officers posed as Italian mobsters to try and get a suspect to confess to murder.
In news reports covering the trial, Lazenby described in court how he portrayed Rod Calabria, the ruthless head of an organized crime group, by faking an Italian accent and pretending to lead a lavish lifestyle.
On Friday, Lazenby was dispatched to the Tangled Spur Ranch near the rural community of Priddis, Alta.
RCMP have said an incident took place, but have released few details except to say no shots were fired — peace officers with the Foothills district do not carry guns, but are armed with pepper spray and a baton.
Lazenby was driven to Calgary police district 8 headquarters in the city's south in medical distress. He was rushed to hospital but pronounced dead a short time later.
RCMP said they have one man who lived at the property in custody, but no charges have been laid.
On Friday afternoon, police officers were stringing yellow tape across the entrance to the property — a narrow tree-lined driveway leading to a rundown home.
"We are considering it a crime scene. We are protecting it until we can determine exactly what happened," said RCMP Sgt. Patricia Neely.
"We do believe that something occurred here — exactly what, we don't know yet."
Neely wouldn't say who drove the officer to the Calgary police station, but the individual under arrest was taken into custody at the same time the officer arrived.
Peace officers enforce bylaws, animal complaints, liquor infractions and traffic laws in the district.
Local media reported that Lazenby was responding to a dog complaint. Neely wouldn't confirm that, but did say there were dogs on the property.
Treasurer Bill Robinson was taking calls on behalf of the Foothills district Friday but didn't have any information about what happened.
An autopsy to determine the cause of death will be performed Monday.
"We are working with the Calgary Police Service to determine what exactly occurred to this peace officer," Neely said.
"Exactly what occurred and who drove (the officer to the headquarters) are still items that are part of the investigation."
She would not say whether the officer was wounded.
"Obviously it does affect police officers more than an average one because it's someone in the same line of work as us. But as far as our investigation, and how it's conducted, there's absolutely no difference," Neely said.
Alberta Solicitor General Jonathan Denis released a statement extending his condolences.
"Tragedies such as this remind us all of the selfless acts peace and police officers make to protect our safety each and every day. On behalf of all Albertans, I want to recognize Mr. Lazenby for his service and assure his loved ones that his sacrifice will never be forgotten."
Calgary police Chief Rick Hansen also expressed sympathy, saying that Lazenby would not be forgotten by his colleagues in law enforcement.
"This tragedy serves as a reminder that officers put their lives on the line every day," said Hansen. "There is no such thing as a safe call and every situation can present unforeseen dangers."
—with files from John Cotter in Edmonton
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