One man is dead and at least seven people were injured in a rash of bloody attacks on the weekend, as tensions escalate among drug dealers and gang members in a city already troubled by recent violence.
At least two people were shot and five stabbed from Friday evening to early Monday morning in addition to a slaying Sunday at a West Broadway apartment.
Winnipeg Police Service spokeswoman Const. Dani McKinnon said Monday there have been 60 shootings so far this year, according to the latest numbers available. She was unable to provide last year’s data for comparison.
At about 5 a.m. Sunday, police officers were called to an apartment building on the 600 block of Broadway where a man was found seriously injured.
The victim, Austin Mark Chief, 24, later died in hospital. The death is being investigated as the city’s 24th homicide of the year. Police have not yet revealed how he was assaulted and whether a weapon was involved.
Mitch Bourbonniere — a community social worker with decades of experience working with at-risk youth, including the victim — said Chief was involved with gangs.
"I can say that the homicide is a homicide of a gang member, someone that was involved in gangs — great kid, good kid, vulnerable kid," Bourbonniere said, adding his gang involvement was low-level.
"I’ve been working with him since he was 12 years old. He’s one of my boys, and I love him. I’m still in shock."
The social worker said historical gang and drug-dealing-related tensions in Winnipeg are on the rise.
"It’s intensified and will be intensified into the summer, because summer is always a spike, because of the type of desperation that is out there and the type of drugs that are out there… meth and the opiates and fentanyl and the poisonings," he said.
"It’s really violent out there right now… I’ve come to the conclusion that we are undeniably in a violent spike right now in our city."
Bourbonniere, who has deep ties to the community, said the tensions among gangs are not new but violence is increasing.
“People are more desperate, more violent, there’s more competition, it’s more serious street drugs, there’s more guns ‐ there’s just more of everything.” – Mitch Bourbonniere
"It’s ongoing, but it’s escalated. People are more desperate, more violent, there’s more competition, it’s more serious street drugs, there’s more guns — there’s just more of everything," he said. "Drugs, gangs and guns — those three words."
McKinnon said it would be difficult to quantify how violent this past weekend was compared to others in the recent past, as police don’t always make public violent crimes because of investigative or sensitivity reasons.
"I would say (the weekend) was taxing," she said. "We had the homicide unit out, we had general patrol running roughshod to all of these calls. The tactical support unit was out… and then the shootings," McKinnon said, noting that major crimes and forensics investigators were also involved.
What police call crime guns — firearms used to commit crimes — are also a concern on city streets.
"Crime guns are being used by people with gang affiliation, drug subculture, these guns are not readily available to just anybody — access comes with the criminal element," she said.
She said the weekend shootings are still being investigated and would not speculate on whether they were gang-related.
About a half-hour after homicide victim Chief was taken to hospital Sunday morning, police were called to the Health Sciences Centre, where a gunshot victim had driven himself for medical care. He had a lower-body injury but was in stable condition.
A man in his 20s had been driving on the 300 block of Sherbrook Street, also in West Broadway, when gunfire hit his vehicle, police said.
The man in his 20s had been driving on the 300 block of Sherbrook Street, also in West Broadway, when gunfire hit his vehicle, police said.
At about 1:30 a.m. Monday, another gunshot victim arrived at hospital. The 16-year-old boy had been shot in the upper body and arrived, possibly by taxi, in unstable condition.
The teenager has since been upgraded to stable condition, but could not provide many details of the shooting to investigators, police said.
On Saturday at about 4 a.m., police were called to a home on the 200 block of Burrows Avenue for a report of a stabbing.
Two suspects fired pepper spray through the home’s back door, causing a man to run outside, where he was stabbed in the upper and lower body. The suspects fled.
Officers gave the victim medical care, applying a tourniquet before he was taken to hospital in stable condition.
Police don’t yet know if the victim and the suspects knew each other.
Two other weekend stabbings that injured four people resulted in arrests.
On Friday, just before 7 p.m., police went to the 500 block of Flora Avenue for a reported stabbing, where they found a 36-year-old man in critical condition. Officers gave him medical care before he was taken to hospital.
On Friday, just before 7 p.m., police went to the 500 block of Flora Avenue for a reported stabbing, where they found a 36–year–old man in critical condition.
At about 9:30 p.m., police found a suspect on the 400 block of Selkirk Avenue and arrested her.
Major crimes investigators believe the victim and suspect didn’t know each other, but were at a home together when the victim was stabbed.
Heavenly Woodhouse, 22, of Winnipeg, is charged with aggravated assault. She remains in custody.
At 1:19 a.m. Saturday, police rushed to the 1300 block of Elgin Avenue West for another reported stabbing. When officers arrived, they found a 21-year-old man in critical condition and gave him medical care before he was taken to hospital. Two other victims, men in their 20s, were also discovered with minor injuries, police said.
Minutes later, at 1:34 a.m., police arrested two suspects on the 1200 block of Alexander Avenue.
Major crimes investigators believe the victims and the suspects didn’t know each other, but had "an encounter" at a nearby park prior to the assaults.
The critically injured victim’s shoes were stolen from him, police said.
Noah Logan Lavalee, 18, of Winnipeg, and a 17-year-old boy, are both charged with aggravated assault, two counts of assault with a weapon, robbery and possession of a weapon.
Both remain in custody.
Anyone with information on the homicide can call investigators at 204-986-6508. The major crimes unit, which is investigating the unsolved shootings and stabbing, can be reached at 204-986-6219. Information on any of the weekend incidents can also be shared through Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.