As a candlelight vigil was being organized on Tuesday for a five-year-old boy killed at the Samson townsite in Hobbema, police released the identity of the youngster and how he died.
Ethan Yellowbird died from a single gunshot wound to the head, according to the Edmonton Medical Examiner’s Office. He is the grandson of Samson Cree Nation Chief Marvin Yellowbird.
The child was hit once from a bullet fired from outside a home while he was asleep in his bed about 3 a.m. on Monday morning. Another woman in the house also suffered minor injuries in the shooting.
RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb said the woman, who was the child’s mother, was not hit by a bullet. There were reports that others were in the home at the time of the shooting, including the boy’s father, but Webb could not confirm that.
“That’s certainly part of the investigation, to determine who was there, and who was there recently prior to, or who came later,” he said.
Investigators completed their work at the scene on Tuesday. Outside, a group of volunteer search and rescue volunteers were enlisted to comb the area for evidence.
Police are also investigating whether a similar shooting nearby about 1:30 a.m. was related. No one was injured in that incident that a house shot at from outside.
Possible gang connections are also being probed.
Meanwhile, the community that was left shocked and saddened by the kind of violence it was trying so hard to contain was expected to gather on Tuesday evening at a private candlelight vigil at the home where Yellowbird died.
Sarah Potts, chair of the Christian Coalition, said the event will bring family members together with community leaders, elders, representatives from the seven churches in the coalition and others in the community.
Potts said she first organized the churches to come together to address gang violence in 2007. They have since had a number of prayer marches and candlelight vigils and she was asked to help arrange one for Yellowbird.
The boy’s death has touched many across the country.
In Moncton, N.B., the head of the Assembly of First Nations opened the assembly by expressing his condolences to Yellowbird’s family and said the tragedy was particularly difficult for the community that had seen some success in their efforts to reduce gang violence.
“We have reached out to the family and the leadership … They really feel that this is the most horrific, terrible setback,” said National Chief Shawn Atleo.
“This kind of tragic news brings heightened focus to the work that we’ve gathered here to do over the next three days,” he continued.
“We have to demonstrate the leadership and show the courage that is needed to say, ‘No more.”’
Samson Cree Nation Councillor Koren Lightning-Earle said the show of support was welcomed.
“I think it’s great that the national chief made those comments, and I’m thankful for the support that we’re receiving from other nations across Canada,” said Lightning-Earle.
“At times likes this it’s part of our culture to come together and support each other.”
At a local level that sense of community has already been shown by the three other First Nations in the area, which have already offered their support, she said.
Meanwhile, police repeated an appeal to the community urging anyone with any information to notify the local detachment.
— with files by The Canadian Press