An 11-year-old boy, who was having fun with his mom at the Red River Ex Monday night, was the second victim of a shooting for which three teens are in custody facing myriad charges.
Police revealed Thursday the child had been whisked away to the hospital by his mom after he was hit by a bullet near the children’s rides around 7 p.m.
Police were later notified after the child was treated in hospital.
Mayor Brian Bowman said he was alarmed by the news.
"It’s terrible news for not only the family but for our community. I want to offer our deepest condolences to all those affected," he said.
Following the shooting, which shocked fair-goers and sparked a call for more safety measures on the Ex’s 120-acre site west of the city, police said a 16-year-old male had been shot.
As of Tuesday, he was in stable condition after surgery was performed on his abdomen. He had received emergency medical attention by fair staff as an anxious crowd watched.
The three alleged shooters, two 17-year-old males and a 15-year-old female, were arrested in a taxi in the Tyndall Park neighbourhood shortly after the incident and police seized a loaded handgun. They remained in custody Thursday.
Police said the 11-year-old didn’t know the alleged shooters or the older victim. He was with his mom near the crowded scene when the gun went off.
“It’s terrible news for not only the family but for our community. I want to offer our deepest condolences to all those affected." — Mayor Brian Bowman
All three accused, who had been slapped with several charges, face an additional charge of aggravated assault in relation to the young victim.
At a hearing for one of the males this week, Crown attorney Alanna Hall told a judicial justice of the peace the three accused fled from the fairgrounds after the 16-year-old victim was shot.
"The Crown is absolutely opposed to his release, along with the two co-accused," Hall said.
The 15-year-old female appeared in court by phone on Wednesday because she has tested positive for COVID-19.
Provincial court Judge Heather Pullan read out the six charges against the female and she responded by saying she understood them.
"Love you," her father said in court before the girl hung up the phone.
The girl and one of the male accused were set to appear in bail court Thursday afternoon. The Free Press was not able to readily confirm the result of the hearings.
The second male youth is set to appear in court June 29.
Red River Exhibition Association CEO Garth Rogerson said he was shocked to learn about the second victim.
"Obviously, this is a very tragic incident and really unacceptable. I feel very badly about that. What can you say? Other than apologize. I’m a little bit speechless, because I’m upset, because I want people to come and feel safe and have a nice time," Rogerson said.
He said the fair has significantly beefed up security in the wake of the shooting, including additional patrols and sentries along the perimeter of the grounds.
The COVID-19-era security protocol is to wave over attendees with a metal-detecting wand and to search bags at entry, instead of patting them down. The fair has added security guards this year — 40 at a time — plus eight paramedics and two ambulances, Rogerson noted.
"Now, there are teams of two walking, looking for any sort of unusual activity," Rogerson told the Free Press.
“Obviously, this is a very tragic incident and really unacceptable. I feel very badly about that. What can you say? Other than apologize. I’m a little bit speechless, because I’m upset, because I want people to come and feel safe and have a nice time." — Red River Exhibition Association CEO Garth Rogerson
"All of our regular staff… they’re also eyes and ears of security as well. They’re not supposed to engage, but they’re trained to watch."
Rogerson said the Ex had 20,000 visitors on Wednesday — a record for a weekday — and had no significant incidents.
"While this incident was extremely unfortunate and absolutely unacceptable, we’re still safe. We are working double time," he said.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, chair of the city’s protection committee, said she has anticipated instances in which stray bullets would hurt innocent people.
She pointed to her recent call for the Winnipeg Police Board to make sure the police chief stays focused on Winnipeg, in light of him being nominated for a national association role.
"You know that in the last few weeks, there have been way too many gunshots," she said. "The violence that we’re seeing, I’m hearing from emergency rooms and more that they were very scared about this. Sadly, (this) was something that unfortunately was anticipated — and why I’ve been really strong in calling for change."
University of Manitoba criminologist Frank Cormier said that while the shooting is a "terrible" incident, the risk of falling victim to random violence is low.
"Over years and years, it’s an enduring statistic, anywhere from 80, 85, 90 per cent of homicides are committed by somebody who is very, very well known to the victim," he said.
He said there are wider societal concerns at the root of violent crime that need to be addressed.
"Why are these basically kids, young people, walking around the Ex carrying a gun? Why did that situation occur in the first place?" he said.
Fair attendee Sally Ahmed told the Free Press on Tuesday that what sounded like a balloon popping, turned out to be a gunshot. A boy spun and fell to the ground and a group of teens ran into a nearby washroom, she said.
The first victim appeared to try to get on his feet before he fell unconscious, Ahmed said.
The fair wraps up Sunday.
— with files from Dean Pritchard and Joyanne Pursaga
Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.