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The death of a 16-year-old female who was shot by a Winnipeg police officer Wednesday evening has been connected to two Liquor Mart thefts.
Around 5:25 p.m. on Wednesday, a police patrol unit was near the Sage Creek Liquor Mart when a robbery occurred at the store, Police Chief Danny Smyth reported at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Several suspects had stolen alcohol and threatened to harm staff, before fleeing in an SUV that had been reported stolen from a home in the Whytewold area of Manitoba on Tuesday.
Officers had begun to follow the stolen vehicle when the SUV rammed into a police car, sparking a "full blown pursuit" in which the SUV struck several other vehicles, Smyth said.
At this point an officer discharged their weapon, striking the 16-year-old driver of the SUV. Police provided medical treatment and she was transported to the Health Sciences Centre, but the young woman—identified by her mother on Facebook as Eishia Hudson— passed away as a result of her injuries.
"Fly high my baby…May you rest in peace baby," Hudson’s mother Christie Zebrasky posted to her Facebook page.
Smyth was unable to tell media whether the pursuit was high speed, or whether any of the suspects appeared to be armed or inebriated, but said he is not aware that anyone other than the 16-year-old shooting victim was harmed.
The same SUV had been the vehicle used in an additional robbery at the Transcona Square Liquor Mart theft earlier Wednesday, at about 10 a.m., and was later involved in a hit and run with a fence in the area of Keewatin Street and William Avenue West, police said.
"Certainly the retail theft issue in our community has been going on all along…and that includes liquor thefts as well," Smyth said.
"This kind of theft-slash-robbery where suspects are swarming into the establishment and stealing and then leaving, this is not the first time we've encountered an event like this."
Four teens have been charged with several offences in connection to the thefts and stolen vehicle; a 15-year-old male, a 15-year-old female, a 16-year-old female and a 16-year-old male have been detained in custody facing charges including robbery, disguise with intent, theft of a motor vehicle and numerous failure-to-comply charges.
Smyth noted some of the youth had been charged previously.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident, a second fatal police-involved shooting took place around 4:30 a.m. Thursday after officers responded to a call regarding an armed male in a domestic conflict in the 300 block of Anderson Avenue.
Officers attended to the address, which they found locked, and forced their way in when they heard a female screaming and in distress, Smyth said Thursday. There police encountered a man with a firearm, as well as an adult woman and a teenaged female.
Police exited the residence in an attempt to de-escalate the situation, and the female youth was able to escape out the rear entrance, Smyth said.
Shortly after, the man exited the residence to confront police, Smyth said, and an officer fired his gun, striking the man.
The 36-year-old man was transported to hospital but later died as a result of his injuries, police report.
The adult woman was also transported to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries sustained prior to police arrival, Smyth said.
"This has been a tragic 12-hour period of time for all our community—two unrelated event in separate parts of the city," Smyth concluded.
"I can tell you that the police officers involved did not come to work expecting to be involved in shootings, especially shootings that resulted in fatalities."
As a result of both these fatal incidents, Smyth said he expects more than a dozen officers will be relieved of their usual duties in the coming days.
"The vast majority of these officers have never been involved in anything like this," he added.
The Independent Investigative Unit of Manitoba (IIU) will investigate both officer-involved incidents.
When asked whether police have noticed an increase in violent crime since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and physical distancing measures, Smyth said crime rates have remained consistent.
"A series of events like this is going to overshadow the news in the community for a little bit," he said. "This is anomaly, I certainly hope."
A WPS release Thursday morning reported two other shootings — not involving officers — overnight.
An adult male was brought to the Health Sciences Centre after suffering a gunshot wound around 10 p.m. Wednesday. He would not cooperate with police regarding how, when or where he was shot, and is reported to be in unstable condition.
A second adult male arrived at the doors of the Misericordia Health Centre just before midnight Wednesday with a gunshot wound. He was transported to the Health Sciences Centre and is reportedly in stable condition, police said. An investigation into the shooting led to the arrest of an adult male, though no charges have been laid.
Investigations into all four shootings are ongoing.
Julia-Simone Rutgers is a general-assignment reporter.