RCMP in Hobbema, Alta., have charged three youths in the shooting death of five-year-old Ethan Yellowbird last summer.

The boy was shot in the head on July 11 while sleeping at his father's house, which had been sprayed by gunfire from a passing vehicle at 3:30 a.m.

Last week police issued arrests warrants for three young offenders, all believed to have gang affiliations.

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Ethan Yellowbird, 5, was killed while he slept in a home on the Samson Cree Reserve at Hobbema, Alta. ((Facebook))

Two of the youths were arrested in the Hobbema area and appeared in Wetaskiwin provincial court Tuesday morning to face charges of manslaughter; intentional discharge of a firearm and endangering life.

Police are still looking in the Red Deer and Edmonton areas for the third youth.

Mother thanks police

"This has been a long and painful road for all of us," said Ethan's mother, Charmaine Yellowbird, in a written statement. "The longing will never go away to see my son again."

'The days of gangs wreaking havoc on our nation are over.' —Chief Marvin Yellowbird

She described her relief over the arrests and thanked police.

The RCMP acknowledged the co-operation of the Hobbema community in the investigation.    

The shooting took place shortly after Staff Sgt. Charlie Wood took over command of the detachment.

"What stands out to me, is that right from the early days of shock and the grief, this community was asking the RCMP, 'What can we do to help?'" he said. "That is the attitude that has helped us solve this case."

14 investigators worked on case

The investigation involved 14 full-time investigators compiling 14,000 officer hours and contact with hundreds of witnesses.

"Investigations like this one are challenging, largely because witnesses fear reprisal if they come forward," said Insp. Garrett Wolsey.

"In this case, individuals did step up to help us," he said.

Chief Marvin Yellowbird, adoptive grandfather of Ethan, credited the arrests to a closer relationship between the band and RCMP that developed after the shooting.

"We are hopeful this trend will continue and that additional arrests will occur in relation to other serious open cases in our community." 

"The days of gangs wreaking havoc on our nation are over."

The reserve, about 80 kilometres south of Edmonton, has been plagued by gang violence over the last number of years.

Last week band members voted in support of a bylaw allowing the council to banish troublemakers from the reserve.