Chief Marvin Yellowbird's Grandson, 5, Shot Dead On Alberta's Samson Cree Reserve
THE CANADIAN PRESS -- HOBBEMA, Alta. - The five-year-old grandson of the chief of an Alberta reserve known for its gang violence has been killed in a shooting.
The boy was sleeping in his bed when he was hit by a bullet fired from outside a home at the Samson Cree First Nation near Hobbema early Monday.
"I am grandfather of the deceased and we're coping," Chief Marvin Yellowbird said at a news conference at the band office later in the day.
"It is a tragic day today for the Yellowbird family as well as the community...we're devastated."
Yellowbird urged witnesses to come forward with information.
"The community is blessed with many good people who define who we are. We shall endure," the chief said.
A woman in the home was also injured in the shooting, but her wounds were not serious. RCMP could not confirm whether the woman was the boy's mother.
About 90 minutes before the killing, shots were also fired at another home on the reserve. No one was hurt, said Sgt. Tim Taniguchi. Investigators are looking into whether the two shootings are linked.
Taniguchi would not confirm the shooting is gang-related, but said officers are on the alert for possible violent retaliation.
"That's always a concern and always a possibility," he said. "We're doing everything to ensure the public safety within this community."
Neighbour Shane Saddleback, who heard the pop of four or five gunshots, believes the violence at Samson is "going to get worse."
Gangs fighting over the drug trade have plagued the community for years, he added. If this was a gang-related shooting, he expects a violent retaliation will soon follow.
"Give it one week, I'm pretty sure you'll hear of another shooting," said Saddleback.
The Samson reserve is one of four near the town of Hobbema, about 100 kilometres south of Edmonton.
RCMP Supt. Curtis Zablocki said there's actually been a reduction in violence since 2008, when 23-month-old Asia Saddleback was shot as she sat at a kitchen table eating dinner. She survived, but the bullet is permanently lodged between her liver and spine.
After that shooting, the band pledged to curb violence and reduce crime. It imposed a nightly curfew for teens and started a gun amnesty project.
Within three months, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed on the reserve and relatives confirmed he was a gang member. A 20-year-old woman was also shot in the head when her home was riddled with gunfire.
Last November, a 28-year-old man standing in his living room on the reserve was struck by several bullets in another drive-by shooting. Several other people in the home, including a three-year-old child, were unharmed.
At the time, RCMP said the shooting appeared to be gang-related but the victim was not believed to have been involved.
Zablocki said there are six gangs currently operating in Hobbema.
-- With files from CHED