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An innocent victim

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It had been less than 48 hours since they received the devastating news – Cheryl Robert had been shot dead at a Winnipeg wedding social.

Yet here I was, sitting on a couch inside an East Kildonan home Monday night, absolutely stunned at how kind and gracious this grieving family could be.

The mere fact they would even welcome a reporter into their home to capture their emotions had floored me. I certainly wasn’t expecting warm handshakes, offers of food and beverage and such genuine sincerity.

It quickly became clear these are very good people – who had a very important message they were hoping I could convey to the public.

Cheryl Robert was a lot of things – a hard-working employee at Revenue Canada, a loving mother to three beautiful children, a devoted daughter and sister.

She was also an innocent victim.

The family was concerned that some members of the public may be wrongly assuming that Cheryl, 50, must have some connection to gangs and criminal activity in Winnipeg.

Nothing could be further from the truth. She was simply caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, a bystander who took a bullet to the head clearly meant for someone else.

As we’ve reported in the Free Press this week, a handful of the more than 100 people at the wedding reception had ties to the Manitoba Warriors street gang. That includes one of the groomsmen, who fled the facility with several associates as the shots began to ring out. They are believed to have been the intended targets.

Robert did not know any of these people. She was at the wedding event because her boyfriend knew the bride. Cheryl also had some mutual friends who were attending, people she knew through the St. Boniface Hotel where she used to work.

Her children said she rarely went to social events but was excited on this night at the chance to see some familiar faces and get dressed up.

It would only be a few hours later that she was shot dead as she browsed silent auction prizes near the back of the hall. The air conditioning was apparently broken and the rear door had been opened to allow for some fresh air.

Unfortunately, it also allowed an unidentified gunman to open fire on a crowd of people, striking Cheryl, her boyfriend and another innocent woman.

Police are still searching for the killer. Several sources have told me they believe this is a result of an ongoing "turf war" between members of the Manitoba Warriors and rivals competing for their share of the drug trade. And that this brazen attack marks a dark, new chapter in the recent history of gang crime, considering innocents were shot and one was killed.

Meanwhile, Cheryl’s family has been left to pick up the pieces. They hope the gunman is caught soon, brought to justice and faces maximum punishment. For now, they remain focused on their grief.

Cheryl’s life will be honoured this Friday in a ceremony beginning at 1 p.m. at the Cropo Funeral Chapel. The Main Street facility is just a few blocks away from where Cheryl died.

The public is welcome to attend.

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About Mike McIntyre

Journalist, national radio show host, author, pundit and cruise director ... Mike McIntyre loves to keep busy.

Mike is the justice reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, where he has worked since 1997. He produces and hosts the weekly talk radio show Crime and Punishment, which runs on the Corus Radio Network in several Canadian cities.

Born and bred in Winnipeg, Mike graduated from River East Collegiate and completed his journalism studies in the Creative Communications program at Red River College.

He and his wife, Chassity, have two children.

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