Neighbours of one of two men found shot dead at a Gatineau, Que., daycare on Friday say they are shaken and at a loss to explain how the tragedy could have happened.
Robert Charron, of Denholm, Que., a rural municipality about an hour north of Gatineau, was one of two men who died at the daycare at 225 and 229 Gamelin St. in downtown Gatineau.
The other man, a 38-year-old French citizen and an employee of the daycare, was found in a separate building. Police have not yet revealed his identity.
Police have officially revealed little about what happened, other than to say they received a call at 10:27 a.m. ET that a man was threatening people, and that when they arrived, they found the bodies of two men who had been shot.
Police said Charron and his wife — the director of the daycare — were in the midst of a separation, but would not confirm whether or not he was the gunman.
'The whole town's upset'
Jeff Pinkos lived down the street from Charron and said he has known him all his life.
"It's shocking," said Pinkos. "The whole town's all upset. They don't know what to make of it."
Charron was known in the community as a jack-of-all trades, ploughing snow in the winter and running a sugar bush in the spring. He and his wife had three children of their own, said neighbour Sylvain Bellehumeur.
"It's sad. It's for the kids also. Their kids also. They have to go through all of this. It's not easy," said Bellehumeur.
Employee shot in nursery
Police sources familiar with the case confirmed to Radio-Canada a number of details about how the incident unfolded.
They said the gunman first entered the daycare building that house the nursery, where five children under the age of 18 months were present. It was there, they said, that the employee at the daycare was shot.
The gunman then moved to the second building, where staff care for 48 children between the ages of 18 months and five years. Police said he tried to kill the director of the centre, but she managed to escape.
The shooter then entered an empty room and took his own life, out of sight of the children, police sources said.
A shotgun was used in the incident, police also confirmed.
Children, staff, fled to neighbouring home
The daycare's children and staff were quickly led to the house that was their normal destination for fire drills, the home of Estelle and Rhéal Mayer and also Louise Robitaille.
On Friday morning, Robitaille said she knew something was wrong.
"They were sent outside without coats because they didn't have time to put them in coats," said Robitaille. "So they were crying and they were cold, that's for sure."
The children stayed upstairs in the Mayer's residence, were given books to read and the adults gave them hugs and sat down with them, Robitaille said.
She said she didn't know if any of the children actually witnessed the shootings or saw the man enter the building, though she said one boy seemed to understand the situation.
The hunter 'didn't find us'
"He said, 'You know the chase man, he didn't find us,'" said Robitaille, referring to chasseur, the French word for hunter.
The daycares are located in houses across the street from the Hull Hospital. Hospital staff brought trolleys with lunches to the children as they waited for their parents.
Parents were asked to wait at a bus while police gathered the children, so Robitaille could not see how they were handling the situation.
One parent Friday evening said she could not believe the knot in her stomach as she waited to see her child. By 5:30 p.m., Robitaille said all of the children had been picked up by their parents.
Police said if people are in shock and need psychological help, they can contact the Centre for Victims of Crime at 819-778-3555 and its 24/7 Help Centre at 819-595-9999.
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