'He was just trying to breathe': Woman who helped North End homicide victim says violence skyrocketing

A man in his 30s is dead after being seriously assaulted early Saturday morning on Salter Street.

Police investigating Winnipeg's 9th homicide of 2019 on Salter Street

Winnipeg police taped off the intersection of Selkirk Avenue and Salter Street Saturday morning. A man died after being found with serious injuries at 2:40 a.m. Police are treating his death as a homicide. (Walther Berthal/CBC)

A man is dead after being seriously assaulted early Saturday morning in the North End of Winnipeg.

Officers were called to Salter Street, near Selkirk Avenue, at 2:40 a.m., where they found the man in his 30s suffering from serious injuries.

He was transported to hospital in unstable condition and died of his injuries later in the morning. Winnipeg police are treating his death as a homicide — the ninth of the year in Winnipeg.

The man's injuries indicate he was assaulted in the upper body with some type of weapon, said police spokesman Const. Rob Carver.

Police believe the man was assaulted near Salter and Selkirk then made his way toward the intersection of Salter and Stella Avenue, where he collapsed, Carver said.

'He wasn't responding'

Stephanie Laquette said she tried to save the man's life early Saturday. When she and her partner pulled their car into the parking lot of the 7-Eleven on Salter Street, they saw him bleeding profusely. 

"I went to him and I was trying to hold his head up, and I was trying to talk to him, trying to keep him awake," she said.

"I was shaking him, trying to get his name and information, but he wasn't responding," she said.

Stephanie Laquette stands in front of police cruisers and yellow tape cordoning off several blocks in her neighbourhood. The mother of 2 tried to save the life of a man she found bleeding in front of a 7-Eleven. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Laquette grabbed some extra clothes from her car and tried to use them to put pressure on his wounds, while staff inside the store called 911.

"At one point, he was, like, snoring. But I don't think it was snoring. I think he was just trying to breathe," she said.

Laquette waited with the man until emergency crews arrived, hoping she could save his life.

"It's so scary to see something like that ... out in the open," she said.

Stephanie Laquette says she found a man bleeding in front of this 7-Eleven in the early morning hours Saturday. She says violence in her area has been increasing in recent months. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Laquette says she's lived in the North End her whole life. In the last half a year, she says the violence has skyrocketed.

"These things don't surprise me anymore, just because it's so dangerous," she said.

"I wouldn't recommend anybody walking past, 7 or 8 o'clock, and it is really scary. My son goes to school three blocks away and I don't let him walk by himself," she said.

While police say it's too early to tell what a motive might have been, Carver said recent homicides have been fuelled by the city's meth crisis.

Laquette said the drug is changing her neighbourhood for the worse.

"A lot of the problems lately have to do with the meth crisis that's going on," she said.

"People, when they're walking around, they just lash out, they just scream, they are swearing."

Laquette says she doesn't want to leave her home, but she's now increasingly worried about her children's safety.

"I grew up in the North End. This is where I've always lived. But now it's gotten to the point where I don't feel like my kids are safe. And do I really want them growing up to know that violence and drugs is just normal? Because it's not, and I don't want them growing up seeing all this stuff," she said.

Laquette said she's also thinking of the victim's family.

"I feel really bad for his family, like you know you have someone leave and then not come back. I just can't imagine how they feel."

'Everybody's pretty worn out'

Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call police at 204-986-6219, or submit a tip anonymously through Crime Stoppers by calling 204-786-8477.

The latest death comes just days after the shooting of Brett Cadieux — the city's eighth homicide of 2019.

In 2018, the city didn't record its eighth homicide until May 29. Last week, a police spokesperson said the city could see over 40 homicides by the end of the year if they continue at this pace — a sharp increase from the 22 homicides in Winnipeg last year.

Saturday's homicide was the fourth in two weeks. 

Carver said each incident puts more strain on the police service.

"I can tell you, I was talking to homicide investigators this morning — everybody's looking pretty worn out," he said.

"You can't have these types of calls at the level we're having and not think that that doesn't impact on all … first responders."

Carver said there doesn't seem to be any one particular factor driving the high homicide rate this year.

"When they're random like the ones we've seen this year, I don't think there is a conclusion you can draw other than the fact that it's tragic," he said.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg