A drive-by shooting that left one man dead and another in critical condition was a targeted hit, Winnipeg police say, but they are struggling to understand why.
Theodoros Belayneh and another man, Biniam Fitur, were shot near Donald Street and Stradbrook Avenue in the early hours of Nov. 26, 2016. Both were taken to hospital in critical condition but Belayneh, 32, didn't survive.
"There's no doubt about it, their intention was to kill the occupants of that vehicle," Sgt. John O'Donovan said at a news conference Wednesday as police pleaded with witnesses to come forward.
"This is Winnipeg, it's not Chicago. We can't allow that to continue. We've got to step up and get some help to make sure we get the people responsible for this."
Using video surveillance from businesses and other buildings in the area, police have identified two vehicles. They believe the occupants of those vehicles could offer some valuable information.
O'Donovan said the occupants of the vehicles were close enough to the shooting that they must have seen what happened.
"What the occupants of these vehicles can tell us is 'where did the gunman's vehicle go?'" he said.
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One of the vehicles is believed to be a four-door black BMW 3 Series that had a group of people inside. The other vehicle is a small SUV, likely a Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk or a Range Rover Evoque, that was driven by a woman who appeared to be alone.
There were several other vehicles in the area but the occupants of those two would have had the best view of what happened, O'Donovan said.
"They must have known what was going on," he said, explaining that glass "pretty much exploded and flew everywhere" during the shooting.
The surveillance video is not focused on the intersection, so it's blurry when zoomed in, O'Donovan explained. Police can see the vehicles in the area but can't make out the actual shooting.
"Please come forward, please help us out. We need to know a little bit more about who shot Teddy Belayneh," he said.
It could very well be that one of those vehicles contained the shooter but the likelihood that both were involved is slim, O'Donovan said. So if the occupants of at least one of the vehicles gets in touch with police, that could help out greatly, he said.
'Struggling with a motive'
Belayneh, who is from Edmonton, was in the front passenger seat of the targeted vehicle. The shooter's bullets blew out the window beside him then punched holes into windshield. Fitur, who is from Winnipeg and was driving the targeted vehicle, swerved over the median of Donald Street and onto Stradbrook after being hit.
Even then, until the car fully came to rest, the gunshots were still coming, O'Donovan said.
"We're talking basically about a drive-by shooting," he said, adding Fitur is "extremely lucky to be alive."
"I firmly believe the intention was to kill everybody in that car."
Although police have been able to speak to Fitur, he hasn't given any indication as to why the shooting happened or who might be responsible.
"We're struggling with a motive for this," O'Donovan said, noting there's nothing to suggest it was connected to other violence in the city and there have been no repercussions since it happened.
Belayneh had a criminal record, so police are also looking into whether the shooting is related to any past convictions.
The two men had attended a performance by American rapper Ace Hood at Reset Interactive Ultralounge on Pembina Highway hours before the shooting, police said.
'There was a lot of shots fired here and a bullet doesn't stop until it hits something.' - Sgt. John O'Donovan
Belayneh did get into a minor altercation at the club for talking to some girls, "but it was nothing that should have led to a shooting," O'Donovan said.
When he and Fitur left the club, they made no other stops before the shooting. And there are no reports of dangerous or reckless driving, so police don't believe the shooting is a road-rage incident either.
A veteran of many investigations, O'Donovan said this one stands out for its "brazen and daring" nature.
"It's not something we're not used to seeing in Winnipeg. We do have a lot of murders in Winnipeg but this is different," he said, adding it could have been even worse.
There are apartments in the area, and there were several cars driving by and people walking nearby at the time of the shooting.
"There was a lot of shots fired here and a bullet doesn't stop until it hits something," O'Donovan said.