Violent gangs infest slain teen’s reserve
Accused pair baited victim, his sister says
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 01/09/2009 (4725 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dakota Hunter often spoke to others about the need to shun violence and walk away from confrontation.
Now grieving family members are wondering why the big-hearted teen who dreamed of competing in the Olympics didn’t follow his own advice last weekend. Instead, he made a decision that ended with his battered, half-naked body found at the side of a road in Nelson House First Nation, about 850 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
Dakota, 17, died of massive trauma. Two 16-year-old residents of the remote reserve — identified as gang associates with troubled pasts — have been charged with second-degree murder.
Tiara Hunter was at home early Saturday morning when her brother returned from a night of partying with several friends, including the two accused. She told the Free Press the two alleged killers came to the house about 3:30 a.m. looking for Dakota, who was still awake in his bedroom.
"They said, ‘Aren’t you gonna come for a walk with us?’ He said ‘No,’ " said Hunter, 24. "Then (one of the accused) called him a f –g p y."
Dakota returned to his room while the boys left. But moments later he was headed out the front door.
"I asked him where he was going. He said, ‘I’ll be right back.’ That’s the last time I saw my brother," Hunter said. She doesn’t know why the two accused wanted to speak with Dakota, but believes they were likely waiting outside for him. She said alcohol was likely a factor in the dispute.
"Nobody ever had a beef with my brother," she said. "He didn’t usually go out like that. He’d just stay home, play video games, talk on the phone to his girlfriend. I guess he’s not the type of person to let them call him a name like that."
Dakota’s bloodied body was found nearby less than an hour later. He was rushed to hospital in Thompson but pronounced dead on arrival. Several family members believe he was beaten with a weapon, possibly a baseball bat. His shirt and shoes were then removed and allegedly set on fire.
Family members, friends and community residents have described Dakota as a genuinely good kid who was fighting a tough battle against many of the negative influences in Nelson House. Three prominent Winnipeg-based gangs — the Native Syndicate, the LHS and MOB — have a visible presence in many northern Manitoba communities and are involved in bringing in drugs and alcohol.
"These gangs are influencing our younger people," Dakota’s aunt, Carol Kabliski, told the Free Press Monday. The two accused are tied to the LHS gang — which stands for Loyalty, Honour, Silence — and have been in and out of Child and Family Services care, according to the victim’s family.
"They’re both very troubled boys," Kabliski said.
Dakota was featured in a local CBC story four years ago as a victim of bullying who had enrolled in martial arts to boost his self-confidence. Although he had recently quit the sport, Dakota was an avid runner who helped his friend, Tori Yetman, raise more than $31,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society through her annual "Tori’s Run." He was also part of the Lance Runners Society, a Cree organization dedicated to eliminating violence.
"This is just such a big shock to us," Yetman, 14, told the Free Press Monday. She was reached by telephone in Orlando, Fla., where she is vacationing with family. "He was just an amazing person. We’ve known each other since the fourth grade. He was such a great athlete. He had dreams of going to the Olympics as a runner and representing Manitoba."
Yetman has moved away from Nelson House and now lives in Winnipeg, saying her family grew tired of the bullying and gang violence, with which Dakota was also struggling.
"It’s such a huge problem up there," she said.
Dakota’s cousin, Chelsea Hunter, said the community has gone downhill in recent months.
"It never used to be like this before, but now there’s lots of people involved in gangs. I guess there’s sort of a turf war going on," she said.
"It’s crazy now. It seems like there’s something going on here every weekend," added Randy Hunter, Dakota’s uncle.
The two accused killers can’t be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. They made brief court appearances in Thompson Monday and are being held in custody.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.