A Morinville man faces murder charges after the death of an aboriginal and gay activist in Whitecourt Saturday, although RCMP say the killing was not a hate crime.

"Shocked, distraught. I didn’t think it would happen," said Earl Sunshine, who was cousins with the victim, Dolan Badger, 49.

RCMP found Badger badly injured in a home in Whitecourt Saturday morning. He was taken to hospital, where he later died.

Police arrested William Kootenay, 22, at the scene. He now faces a second-degree murder charge.

While living in Edmonton, Dolan became well-known after writing about his experiences growing up as a gay aboriginal man in northern Alberta.

He later moved to Vancouver, where he became an outreach worker and HIV activist.

Sunshine, who lives in Vancouver, says Dolan was a vital part of the community and will be sorely missed by people there.

"They just think it was very, very sad that it happened to such a nice person."

Suspect and victim knew each other

Sunshine told CBC News that he had heard from other family members that Dolan’s death was "a gaybashing."

However, Whitecourt RCMP says Dolan’s sexuality does not appear to be connected to the killing.

"Those are some of the angles we’ve looked at. This is not a hate crime at this time, I know there are rumours going around. This is not a hate crime," said Staff Sgt. Rodney Koscielny.

Koscielny says it appears that the two men knew one another and police are still trying to determine exactly what happened.

Kootenay is set to appear in court January 22.