Gangs, fear stalk Saskatchewan village
A shooting death across the street from the RCMP detachment in La Loche, Sask., has thrown a harsh light on gang violence in the northern village.
Matthew St. Pierre, 29, died June 6 after being shot in broad daylight, a crime police say may have been gang-related. Shortly after the shooting, Curtis Ecklund, 26, and Richie Herman, 18, were charged with second-degree murder and weapons offences.
In interviews with CBC News last year, the RCMP said there could be 100 gang members around the village, which according to the 2006 census, had a population of 2,348.
One of the most influential of them is said to be a Dene gang known as the Scorpion Brothers, a Dene group that formed several years ago in the jails and prisons of Prince Albert.
St. Pierre himself had gang ties and had spent time behind bars for various offences.
His mother Annette Montgrand admits her son was no saint, but says he didn't deserve to be shot twice in the face with a sawed-off shotgun.
He had been out of jail for only four months, but was turning his life around and was training for a career, she said.
Montgrand said she rushed to the scene when she heard her son had been shot.
"My whole body went cold. I knew right away something was wrong," she said. "They said, 'Your son has been shot twice on Main Street.'"
She said she spoke to the police and others about what happened and learned the gun had been hidden in a baby's stroller.
"That baby was used to conceal the weapon that was intended for my son," she said.
In light of those circumstances, Montgrand said, she's disappointed police have not charged anyone with first-degree murder.
"They try to tell us there's no proof it was planned. So they been charged with second-degree murder. We fully do not agree. My children and I ... are not happy with that."
It's not the family's first brush with gun violence.
Last summer, a 13-year-old niece of St. Pierre was hit in a drive-by shooting.
She survived, but according to the girl's father, Robert St. Pierre, a culture of fear makes it difficult to bring the culprits to justice.
"It was very, very busy. A lot of witnesses. No one came forward," Robert St. Pierre said.
No one came forward, he said, because people in La Loche are afraid of gang retaliation. That's something that has to change, he said.
Meanwhile, the two men charged in the death of Matthew St. Pierre are scheduled to be back in court on Thursday.