June 24th, 2024

‘It’s grim:’ Community devastated by shooting deaths in Sault Ste. Marie

By Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press on October 25, 2023.

Five people – including three children and a shooter – were found dead in the northern Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie after shootings at two homes, police said Tuesday, calling what happened a tragic case of intimate partner violence. A police forensic unit attends a crime scene on Second Line, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Bob Davies

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Halloween decorations still fluttered from the front porch of a home in Sault Ste. Marie where three children were found shot dead this week, the youngest victims of a rampage in the northern Ontario city that ended with five people killed.

In the front windows, more decorations hung in anticipation of the upcoming celebration, while outside, yellow police tape surrounded the bungalow as neighbours could occasionally be seen weeping nearby.

The entire neighbourhood, one resident said, was feeling the weight of what police have described as a tragic case of intimate partner violence.

“You can feel it in the air outside, like it’s grim,” said Aarika Bonin, who lives down the street from the home where the children ““ aged six, seven and 12 ““ were killed.

“I stand outside to put my son on the bus and it’s sad … it’s just a sad day for the whole community and the families involved. It’s going to be sad for a while.”

Police have said a shooter, who investigators have not named, broke into one home Monday night and left a 41-year-old dead, before heading to the second home and shooting the three children, who died, and another adult, who survived.

Police said the 44-year-old shooter was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot.

Bonin said she and her husband saw police vehicles rushing to their street on Monday night, saw officers running back and forth and paramedics arriving but didn’t know what was going on at the time.

While she didn’t personally know the family that lived down the street, the children seemed happy, she said, and had recently decorated their yard for Halloween.

“I’ve seen the kids playing outside … they seem like a nice, normal family,” she said. “It really hits close to home, not only being just down the road from us but also having kids of our own.”

Bonin said she’s been holding her own kids closer as she processes what happened in what is typically a quiet neighbourhood.

“To think that kids were involved is just ridiculous to me,” she said.

A heavy police presence was also visible outside the home where the first shooting took place. Yellow police tape surrounded the house, which had a basketball net outside and an ATV and an RV on the property.

Carlo Fea, who owns an electronic store near that home, said he was still in shock.

“It’s so close to home,” he said. “I’m not sure what would cause something like this.”

Investigators have not released any information on the identities of those involved but said the shootings were not a random act of violence.

The Algoma District School Board said its community was feeling the “immense impact” of the loss of three students.

“We are working to support all our students and staff, knowing that grief is unique to everyone,” the board’s director of education, Lucia Reece, wrote in a statement.

The board’s traumatic events response team was at the schools affected to support students and teachers, Reece said.

“Our hearts continue to go out to all family, friends, students and staff who have been affected by this loss,” she said.

Sault Ste. Marie Mayor Matthew Shoemaker called what happened is an “unspeakable tragedy” and he hoped the results of the police investigation will spur change.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2023.

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