Kyle Earl was a troubled teenager who proudly brandished a red bandana, flashed gang signs in photos, had a history of run-ins with the law and recently got out of jail.
But the city's latest homicide victim was also a beloved boy whose dedicated mother was scared daily for her only child's safety.
Brenda Earl's worst fears were realized when her 16-year-old son was gunned down Tuesday afternoon by two males who fired about 15 bullets at a Toronto Street front porch where he sat. His 13-year-old friend Byron Cook, who lives on the top floor of the white triplex, was also struck but survived the attack.
Police are now seeking Earl's killers, as well as a gun-toting friend of the victims who chased after the shooters and began firing in retaliation. Those bullets struck a Dodge Neon with three uninvolved adults inside and a parked Sunfire two blocks east on Agnes Street.
"I'm thankful, and I know the service is very thankful, that we're not reporting more injuries today," Winnipeg police spokesman Const. Jason Michalyshen said Wednesday.
Justice sources say the death points to mounting gang tensions in the city. Police said Wednesday there's "no question" they're looking at gang connections to the brazen attack.
"This is not a random act. This incident and these individuals, based on our investigation at this point, these individuals were targeted," Michalyshen said.
Winnipeg police flooded the same West End neighbourhood early Wednesday evening after bullets began flying on Victor Street. A 10-year-old girl was shot in the leg and an eight-year-old girl was grazed in the head after a gunman opened fire on a house in the 500 block of Victor Street. Police don't believe there is any link to the Tuesday attack and have made no arrests.
Area residents say a group of boys had been hanging out in front of the Toronto Street home recently yelling gang slogans. One neighbour said that about three days ago, a woman walked by crying after the boys harassed her. Police said both victims were known to them, but did not comment on the boys' gang involvement.
Brenda Earl was devastated by the death of her son and was staying with family friends Wednesday night.
"She doesn't know whether she's coming or going," a family friend said. He rushed to be with the grieving mother after police showed up at her door. "It's such a shock... We're trying to circle the wagons and hopefully get her through this tough period in time and get her back on her feet."
Sources said her son, who was more than six feet tall, was living at another home while his mother tried to regain full custody of him in her St. Boniface home. He had lived previously with a foster mother on London Street and had attended Kildonan East Collegiate.
He dropped out of school and got into selling drugs. Relatives emphasized he was a "well-behaved" young man who loved video games and was trying to sort his life out.
The family friend said Kyle's mother feared for her son "every day of her life" before his death. The friend accepts the police assertion that the shooting may be gang-related.
"I think he was an average teenager who got involved with the gang organizations in this province, and in effect, I guess, took that to be his destiny," the friend said. "Whether that's right or not, I'd say it probably isn't, with my background and upbringing, but I guess he felt that that was his destiny, and unfortunately when you get involved with that, there's also the chance that things can go wrong."
Kyle's father was not an active presence in his life, said a relative, and family court documents indicate his mother pursued his father for custody payments more than 15 years ago. The friend said they are waiting for officials to release Kyle's body so they can plan his funeral.
"Parents are definitely not set up to bury their children," the friend said. "(I think she had) a mother's instinct, might be the best word, or just a gut feeling, that trouble was brewing and things could take a turn for the worse."
Court records show Kyle was arrested in December 2008 and charged with a series of crimes, including three counts of theft, three counts of mischief and failing to comply with a court order.
The teen pleaded guilty in May 2009 and was given 12 months of supervised probation. He was rearrested in July 2009 and charged with a violent robbery and failing to comply with terms of his sentence. He pleaded guilty in October 2009 and was given 46 days of time already spent in custody, six more months in jail, three months of community supervision and two more years of probation. He was also given a weapons prohibition.
Although his specific release date isn't clear, Kyle is believed to have been returned to the community earlier this spring and to have been serving the community supervision part of his sentence at the time of his death.
Police tape still surrounded 646 Toronto St. Wednesday afternoon, with two mountain bikes on their sides on the home's front lawn near a beaten-up baby stroller. Exhausted tenants who live in other rental suites there sprawled out near the sidewalk after a long night of talking with police. Evidence of the paramedics' fight to treat the boys after the shooting was still on display, including an abandoned set of blue rubber plastic gloves and a sealed bandage.
Around the home's front door and inside entrance were bullet holes marked with yellow police tape. Tape also surrounded an address facing 646 Toronto, on the east side of the street, where forensic officers gestured at a nearby tree. Repair workers tramped in and out of a home directly south of the property, where a bullet had whizzed into the front window and shattered the glass, causing $500 damage.
Kyle's friends quickly set up a tribute page on Facebook, where dozens of teens expressed shock, sadness and condolence.
Two young girls, who identified themselves as girlfriends of Indian Posse members, spoke of possible revenge in their postings. One girl wrote an email to the Free Press noting the recent arrests of 31 Hells Angels members and associates, which justice officials say has created a dangerous situation on the streets, with street gangs now vying for control of the lucrative drug trade.
"I know the HA (Hells Angels) is all big, you gotta remember they might run the insides (jail), but they don't run the outsides," she wrote.