Saskatoon

Saskatoon police say innocent civilians have been victims in rash of gang-related shootings

Saskatoon police say that several people injured in recent gang-related shootings in the area of St. Paul's Hospital may have been innocent bystanders with no connections to the gangs involved.

Police 'troubled, concerned' by violence in area surrounding St. Paul's Hospital

Staff Sgt. Grant Obst with the Saskatoon police targeted enforcement unit says a homicide Tuesday night adds even more urgency to the concern about shootings in the area of St. Paul's Hospital. (Jennifer Quesnel/CBC News)

Saskatoon police say that several people injured in recent gang-related shootings in the area of St. Paul's Hospital may have been innocent bystanders with no connections to the gangs involved.

Police are troubled enough that members of the major crimes unit, the gangs and guns unit and the targeted enforcement unit held a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to try and get to the bottom of what's happening.

Staff Sgt. Grant Obst with targeted enforcement says a homicide Tuesday night adds even more urgency to the situation. It happened in the heart of the area where police are focusing their attention, and the 31-year-old victim had no apparent gang connection.

It gets even worse when we start talking about innocent bystanders becoming victims. That elevates the concern.- Staff Sgt . Grant Obst , Saskatoon Police Service

Two youths, aged 15 and 17, were charged on Thursday with second-degree murder in connection with the death of Mark Abram Enwaya. He was shot with a .45-calibre handgun, collapsing in an alley in the 100 block of Avenue Q S.

Multiple sources tell CBC that his shooting involved members of a gang called the Hustle Crew. Initiation in the gang involves shooting another person.

"I can't confirm that, but I wouldn't rule that out. I would say that's a possibility, yes," Obst said.

After further discussions with the guns and gangs unit, the police service said there isn't information to support that gang initiation involves injuring someone with a firearm.

Obst says police don't want the public to panic, but at the same time he's says it's important that they know what's happening on the street — especially in that area.

"A number of incidents have occurred in that particular area, probably within a two- or three-block radius. Several of those incidents have involved firearms, and several of them have involved people actually getting shot," he said.

"Some of the incidents were gunshots being reported with no victim, but in other cases there was actually people that … suffered injury as result of a gunshot."

Obst added that not all the violence involves firearms.

"In my mind, there are seven or eight or nine or 10 instances, not all of them firearm-related. Some involve other means of violence. Some of them, it's people from different gangs, and in others it's not," he said.

Saskatoon Police Service said on its Twitter account Thursday afternoon that, "there is no indication bystanders are being 'targeted.' "

Typically, gang violence in Saskatoon has involved one gang fighting another for territory or for drug share. In the fall of 2013, for instance, four people were shot as the Terror Squad and Saskatchewan Warriors battled over drugs.

Obst said this is troubling enough,"but it gets even worse when we start talking about innocent bystanders becoming victims. That elevates the concern."

The two teens accused of killing Enwaya are back in court March 18.

About the Author

Dan Zakreski is a reporter for CBC Saskatoon.