Saskatoon

Drugs, guns and gangs at root of violence in Pleasant Hill neighbourhood

Experts on the street in the Pleasant Hill neighbourhood say a mix of drugs, guns and gangs are behind the recent spike in violence.

Family of latest victim confronts alleged killers in provincial court

Police gather evidence after last week's fatal shooting. (CBC)

The people who patrol the streets and alleys around St. Paul's Hospital say the latest spike in violence flows from a volatile mix of gangs, guns and drugs.

They say no one element in Pleasant Hill is to blame.

Tony Landry is the sergeant who heads the Saskatoon police guns and gangs unit. Shane Partridge worked with Str8-Up, a gang diversion program, and is presently the Pleasant Hill Community Association's community safety co-ordinator.

Both are struggling to contain, and make sense of, the recent wave of violence that has seen multiple shootings and a homicide in the past ten days. Most recently, two armed suspects stole a car at gunpoint just before midnight Sunday and then managed to evade police.

'The wrong place at the wrong time'

Tony Landry with the guns and gangs unit says officers are making arrests and investigating incidents. (CBC)

"When you look at the investigations and how they unfold, sometimes they're crimes of opportunity. You have people walking on the streets and they might be under the influence of a drug or alcohol," Landry said.

"People walking down the street that are at the wrong place at the wrong time, and that's unfortunate that those do happen."

Landry says there is no information to suggest that there is a gang war happening, or that gangs are now forcing recruits to shoot somebody as part of their initiation. He suggests that as investigations progress, connections between victims and assailants often emerge that were not evident at first blush.

Partridge is organizing an emergency safety meeting March 29 at Station 20 West, focusing on safety in six core neighbourhoods.

'Gang problem' too simple, Partridge says

One of the goals of the meeting will be to create a map of the serious problem areas.

"I hope that we can map out safe spots in our communities, not-so-safe spots in our community, and relay that information to our community associations and the city so that we can work towards some solutions for these areas that we may identify," he said.

Partridge says it's important to not get caught up in a mentality of labelling it all a "gang problem." He says the picture is more complicated.

"I think the individuals that are committing these crimes may have links to gangs, and then in turn gets blamed on the gang," he said.

Victim's family sees alleged killers in court

Family of 31-year-old Mark Enwaya converged in a Saskatoon courtroom Monday morning to see the two teens charged with second-degree murder in his death a week ago.

Enwaya was fatally shot with a .45-calibre handgun while in an alley on the 100 block of Avenue Q South.

Shane Partridge says the violence cannot all be blamed on gangs. (Facebook)

His mother, Sameerah Slvea, said outside court that the family are Assyrian Christian newcomers who immigrated here from Iraq to escape violence there. She described her son as quiet and respectful. Enwaya worked at the Star Egg distribution centre.

"He went to the job and when he come back, he picked me up because I went to school ..." she said.

"Helped me to pay rent, to buy grocery, he respect me, he respect his sister, his father."

Police are still trying to figure out what Enwaya was doing in the alley the evening he was killed. The shooting happened around 7 p.m. CST.

The two boys charged with second-degree murder in his death are aged 15 and 17. They appeared in provincial court Monday.

The younger teen is scheduled back in court on April 16. The older is coming back March 26. The 17-year-old's lawyer, Mike Nolin, said that the boy had been under psychiatric care before the shooting, and then he'll be checking the possibility of an assessment to see whether he is not criminally responsible.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated Mark Enwaya was a Syrian Christian. In fact, he was an Assyrian Christian.
    Mar 19, 2019 9:35 AM CT

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