Two men are dead and a teenaged girl is in critical condition after apparently random shootings within 35 minutes of each other in Winnipeg’s North End on Saturday night.
Police have not released the names of the victims — though a witness identified one as a family friend — and had only a limited description of the person who shot at three homes in the William Whyte neighbourhood. Family members of the victims are still being notified of what happened, Const. Jason Michalyshen said Sunday.
Police said witness accounts left investigators with a preliminary description of a shooter who is between five feet eight inches and six feet tall and possibly in his or her 20s.
The person seems to have worn all black clothing and moved on foot and on a mountain bike.
'This community, there's no question, has been challenged by violent offences.' — Const. Jason Michalyshen
The first shooting happened about 8:40 p.m. CT in the 200 block of Stella Walk, according to police. A bullet hole could be seen in the window of an apartment.
Two other shootings followed — outside a home in the 400 block of Dufferin Avenue, then outside a home in the 400 block of Boyd Avenue, police said.
Girl shot after drugs refused
In the first shooting on Stella Walk, a man dressed in black approached a group of area kids and asked if they wanted to buy marijuana.
When they refused, he opened fire, hitting a 13-year-old girl in the abdomen, a number of witnesses told CBC News. They are not being identified out of concerns for their safety.
The terrified children banged on the door of a nearby home to get help while the shooter took a bicycle from another home and rode off, the witnesses said.
The teen was rushed to Children's Hospital, where she remains in critical condition.
'I asked him if he was dying and he didn't say nothing.' —Kyle Ross
A young boy was also shot at, but the bullet went through the sleeve of his sweater, witnesses said.
The witnesses said they were each interviewed at police headquarters overnight.
Dufferin victim shot twice: witness
Kyle Ross, who lives at 495 Dufferin Ave., said a friend of his father's — a man he identified as Tommy — was the victim in the shooting on that street. Ross told CBC News the man was dropping off some meat at Ross's back door when he was shot in the back and the back of the leg. Ross said he knelt and felt the victim's pulse before emergency crews arrived.
"He looks like he was dying, so I put my hand on his neck," Ross said. "I asked him if he was dying and he didn't say nothing. And I felt his neck move and he's trying to breathe."
The three locations are within a few blocks of each other. The last report of a shooting came in at 9:15 p.m., police said.
After the shootings, investigators cordoned off a large area of the neighbourhood while they searched for the assailant. Police asked motorists to stay away for their own protection.
Police were not asking people in the area to remain indoors, Michalyshen said, contrary to earlier reports.
"We're not about to create panic or cause unnecessary scare to members of the public." Michalyshen said. "But we are certainly seeing the importance of notifying the public given the nature of these incidents."
Police have "no information" to support reports that the shooter was knocking on doors in the area, then opening fire on unsuspecting people inside, he said.
3 slayings in 2 weeks
Michalyshen said the victims don't appear to have been targeted, but information was scarce.
appear to be random," he said.
Michalyshen cautioned that investigators have yet to confirm that all three shootings are linked.
Police have taken the rare step of bringing in a crime analyst to examine the incidents to see if they are linked. Investigators are running tests to determine whether the same firearm was used in all three shootings.
Saturday's homicides mark the second and third in the area in two weeks.
The fatal shooting of Tiffany Johnston, 21, outside a home on Selkirk Avenue on Oct. 10 remains unsolved.
Including Saturday's shooting deaths, Winnipeg has recorded 21 homicides in 2010. Nine have taken place in the North End.
"This community, there's no question, has been challenged by violent offences," Michalyshen said.
And despite a large number of people living in the area, he added, "there are bad people doing bad things."
People who live near the Stella Walk shooting are expressing extreme fear, according to CBC News reporter Sean Kavanagh. One woman said she will keep her children inside until police make an arrest, he said.
Others said they are afraid the shootings may be tied to gang activity.