3 youths charged in fatal shooting on Alberta reserve
Published Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:53PM EST
Three youths have been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of a five-year-old boy on the Samson Cree Nation reserve in central Alberta last summer.
Ethan Yellowbird, the grandson of reserve Chief Marvin Yellowbird, was killed on July 11 when a bullet fired from outside his bedroom wall struck him in the head.
At a Tuesday news conference, Hobbema RCMP said two of the accused have been arrested while there has been a warrant issued for the third youth.
In addition to manslaughter, CTV Edmonton reported that the accused have also been charged with intentional discharge of a firearm and endangering life.
The RCMP estimate that 14 investigators spent up to 14,000 hours and $500,000 on the case, which rocked the small community in Hobbema, south of Edmonton.
"The Samson Cree Nation is full of law-abiding, strong and proud people. The days of gangs wreaking havoc on our nation are over," Chief Yellowbird told reporters at the news conference.
Political leaders have said that gang activity has been a persistent problem in the Hobbema area, where there are believed to be about 12 gangs.
"The death of five-year-old Ethan Yellowbird was a tragedy to the entire community, including the RCMP officers who know the local kids," said Staff Sgt. Charlie Wood, the officer in charge of the Hobbema detachment.
"What stands out for me is that right from the early days of shock and the grief, this community was asking the RCMP, 'What can we do to help you solve this crime?'
"That is the attitude that has helped us solve this case."
Ethan's mother, Charmaine Ashley Yellowbird, also issued a statement through community elder John Crier.
"I do feel relieved knowing these individuals have been arrested and that they won't be able to harm anyone else again," she wrote. "I can begin my healing journey. My son will always be in my heart and my memory."
In September, a 23-year-old woman was shot next to the home where young Ethan was killed. She has been identified as Chelsea Yellowbird, the young boy's aunt.
Police have not made any arrests in that investigation and continue to urge anyone with information to come forward.
Both Yellowbird cases and similar violent incidences inspired the Samson Cree Nation to pass a bylaw last week giving the band the power to legally evict gang members from the community.
Children under the age of 12, however, cannot be evicted under the Residency Bylaw.
With files from CTV Edmonton's Sonia Sunger and The Canadian Press