The Dartmouth shooting scene, in a different light

The CBC's Phonse Jessome reflects on the stories that have, all too often, brought him to a neighbourhood in north-end Dartmouth.
Bras Dor Lane in Dartmouth was the scene of a shooting on Wednesday night and a series of arrests early Thursday morning. (Phonse Jessome/CBC)

I strolled down Bras Dor Lane in Dartmouth at 5:40 this morning. A lone security light pushed my shadow into the graveyard at the end of the lane.

There wasn't much else to see — two short rows of public housing units with an uneven sidewalk running down the middle, a few bloodstains, a paramedic's discarded purple glove, an empty liquor bottle and some crushed beer cans, a few discarded toys.

I've been here before, at this same hour. A shooting brought me then. Same place, same reason.

This time, five shots in the night. The 24-year-old man hit by a few of those bullets will survive. He won't talk to police about it.

You might think it odd — two shootings on such a tiny lane. But then, you've probably never been to any of the tiny lanes that make up this housing project in north-end Dartmouth. Not that this place is unique. I promise you, it's not.

A young mother was up by six o'clock, standing in a spotless kitchen with family pictures on the wall. Smiling faces surrounding her. She sent me away, just like last time. She's smart enough not to talk to a reporter.

The woman who lives at the other end of the lane is too polite to send me away, but still smart enough not to give her name. She's lived here for 11 years and tells me last night's shooting didn't even sound like a shooting. More like someone tapping on her outside wall. She's heard worse. She's lost count of how many times gunfire woke her in the night.

A small strip of yellow crime scene tape flaps loosely on the ground beside other litter. Nothing unusual here, a man tells me. He won't say anything else.

Moments later police rush into the lane and pound on a door.

"We have a warrant," they yell through the closed door. "Open it or we will."

That sounds strange to me. How can they have a warrant? This isn't a TV show. Police don't get a warrant hours after a late night shooting. They have to wait and see a judge in the morning.

Officers lead a man and a woman away in cuffs. Their small children, babies really, are taken from the home by a friend.

There was blood on their lawn and that paramedic's glove. The shooting happened right outside their door. But, a warrant so fast? No. This warrant was written before the bullets started to fly last night.

The man and woman were wanted in connection with a January murder, not the shooting only hours ago. A coincidence that would be shocking anywhere else, but here people take it in stride.

Please don't dismiss the people who live here. Most work hard at tough jobs, many have young children. I spoke with a labourer, a hotel clerk and one of the people who serve you at Tim Hortons. They don't like what happens here at night, but feel powerless to stop it. Some stay because they have strong community bonds here, others say they can't quite afford to get out.

It's easy to drive past and ignore this place, but you shouldn't. To do that is to abandon some very good people.

Besides, Bras Dor Lane is the clearest picture you will ever see of the city you live in. It is hard working families and gun wielding thugs living side by side. Good city, bad city. Same city.

I'll leave here and return home after work. I live far from here, in the suburbs. Not too far from where a charred body was found on New Year's Day. You know, the murder that sent the police here with those arrest warrants today.

Good city, bad city. Same city.

About the Author

Phonse Jessome

Video Journalist

Phonse Jessome has been reporting the news in Nova Scotia since 1981. He's won national and regional journalism awards and has written two best selling true crime books. He's born in Cape Breton and loves to call this province home.