Alberta community in 'state of crisis' after toddler shot
Published Tuesday, April 15, 2008 8:23PM EDT
The chief of a First Nations reserve in northern Alberta declared his community to be in a "state of crisis" Tuesday, after a bullet struck a toddler in the stomach during a drive-by shooting.
"Samson chief and council is dedicated to the reduction of gang activity and related gang activity in the Samson community," Chief Marvin Yellowbird said Tuesday on a Hobbema radio show.
A teen and a young offender are facing more than a dozen charges each in connection with the drive-by shooting on the Samson Cree Nation reserve.
"There are 18 charges against the 18-year-old and 15 charges against the young offender," RCMP Darrel Bruno told Canada AM on Tuesday.
The charges include aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, pointing a firearm and other gun-related offences.
The shooting happened Sunday night. The 23-month-old infant was sitting at a table in the kitchen of her rural home when a shot was fired from a dark-coloured vehicle.
The bullet went through the wall and struck the girl in the stomach. RCMP believe only one bullet hit the home before the car sped off.
The girl was rushed by air ambulance to an Edmonton hospital from the reserve, which sits about 60 kilometres to the south, and remains in intensive care in critical but stable condition, police said. Her family is with her at the Stollery Children's Hospital.
Yellowbird said everyone in the community needs to work together to fix the gang problems.
"I received assurance that the police services will be stepped up in the community," he said.
Bruno said investigators have turned up evidence that the girl's home may have been targeted by the accused.
"There may have been issues or frictions between this group and individuals at that place," he said.
There has been a dramatic increase in gun-related activity in the area, Bruno said.
"Just over the past three weeks, we've had 12 firearms-related complaints. And just over the last two weeks, we had two individuals who were shot at different times," he said.
The activity is an escalation in jockeying between local gangs over the drug trade, he said.
A community response team is attempting to address the violence, drugs and gangs issue, he said. In the short time between April 3 and April 6, Hobbema RCMP laid 38 criminal charges for gun-related activity.
Band chief Marvin Yellowbird said the gang problems are a community problem and it's something only they can fix.
"We are in the process of establishing a committee to address the gang violence in our community," he said, noting he is a grandfather.
"It is getting crazy nowadays, I guess," said Adam Jackson, father of a young daughter. "I don't know what to think, it's scary, I guess just keep to yourself out here."
Christopher Shane Crane, an 18-year-old from Hobbema, Alta., and a 15-year-old boy will make their first court appearance in nearby Wetaskiwin, although the date isn't known yet.
A 19-year-old arrested around the same time has been charged with an unrelated offence, Bruno said.
With files from The Canadian Press