December 7, 2019

Winnipeg
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City on pace for worst-ever year for homicides

During the past quarter century, more than 600 people have been victims of homicides in Winnipeg—an average of 24 per year, or roughly one killing every 15 days.

HOMICIDE VICTIMS IDENTIFIED

Winnipeg police have identified the victims in Sunday morning’s double homicide in a back lane near Ross Avenue and Isabel Street.

Police were called to the scene at 2:30 a.m. Upon arrival, officers found two men suffering from “severe upper-body injuries.” They were taken to hospital where they were pronounced dead.

The victims were identified Monday as Edwin Adrian Harper, 32 of Winnipeg, and Wayne Patrick Palidwor, 62 of Winnipeg.

While the Winnipeg Police Service has not released the cause of death, two sources told the Free Pressthe incident was a shooting.

Winnipeg police have identified the victims in Sunday morning’s double homicide in a back lane near Ross Avenue and Isabel Street.

Police were called to the scene at 2:30 a.m. Upon arrival, officers found two men suffering from “severe upper-body injuries.” They were taken to hospital where they were pronounced dead.

The victims were identified Monday as Edwin Adrian Harper, 32 of Winnipeg, and Wayne Patrick Palidwor, 62 of Winnipeg.

While the Winnipeg Police Service has not released the cause of death, two sources told the Free Press the incident was a shooting.

On Jan. 13, 2019, Palidwor was convicted for assault with a weapon. He was sentenced to time served in custody pre-trial, plus two years supervised probation.

Harper’s criminal record includes numerous breaches of court orders interspersed with more serious offences. Most recently, he was charged with break and enter, theft and assault, but the charges were stayed by the Crown in January 2019.

On Oct. 4, 2014, he pled guilty to assault and was sentenced to four months in custody. Two years earlier, on Oct. 31, 2012, he pled guilty to assault with a weapon. He was sentenced to 220 days time served.

On Oct. 25, 2011, Harper pled guilty to assault with a weapon. He was sentenced to six months in jail and 18 months supervised probation.

Police have not said if investigators believe the double homicide is connected to gang activity. However, WPS spokesman Const. Rob Carver said Sunday “it doesn’t appear that this was a random targeting.”

Gang graffiti tags were found spray painted near the scene of the crime. The tags referenced at least two local street gangs: the Manitoba Warriors and the B Side gang.

Anyone with information about the double homicide is asked to contact major crimes investigators at 204-986-6219.

— With files from Dean Pritchard

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

But following a violence-filled weekend on Winnipeg’s streets, which saw three people killed and five injured in three separate incidents, the city is on pace to outstrip its highest annual homicide total on record.

It’s a horrific high water mark that Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth doesn’t want to hit.

"We’re just seeing people resorting to weapons and violence far too frequently," Smyth told the Free Press.

During the weekend, Winnipeg recorded its 34th, 35th and 36th homicides of 2019. No criminal charges have been announced in any of the cases. The highest year on record was 41 homicides in 2011. That year, the 36th homicide wasn’t recorded until Dec. 3.

Last year, the city only recorded 22 homicides. And in addition to the increase in slayings, the WPS says it’s seeing more firearm-related deaths this year.

Of the 36 killings so far, the police have released the cause of death in 25 cases. Thirteen of those cases were shootings. In 2018, the city only recorded three firearm homicides; the year before, seven.

Police say they’re seizing firearms and edged weapons on a daily basis. One of the victims from this weekend — a 14-year-old girl who was killed at a Halloween party on the 100 block of Kinver Avenue —was stabbed to death.

"I have a daughter in that same age range and kind of doing the same things, celebrating Halloween and what not. Those strike home. That’s a fear for any parent," Smyth said.

"Your kid starts to get into those mid-teens and you give them more independence, but you just hope they’re making good decisions."

The police chief said the spate of violence that hit the city during the weekend stretched the force's resources to its limits.

"The environment we’re in is something we’ve been talking about for several years now. We’re seeing some of the consequences of the meth impact in our town. We’re seeing some of the consequences of how gangs are factoring into that," Smyth said.

"We saw a real extreme example of that last weekend where it had a huge impact on our resources. But this is just a variation of the same theme we’ve been talking about for some time."

A 14-year-old girl was slain and an 18-year-old girl injured during a party at this house on Kinver Avenue. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

A 14-year-old girl was slain and an 18-year-old girl injured during a party at this house on Kinver Avenue. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

At a press conference Monday, WPS spokesman Const. Jay Murray couldn't point to any one issue driving the increased violence in Winnipeg’s streets in 2019.

"I think the public would like us to identify one root cause of these homicides, but the reality is there are a number of different issues that could be driving them," Murray said.

Mitch Bourbonniere, a community organizer and anti-gang activist with Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin, said he feels not much has changed with Winnipeg’s street gang scene during the past three decades.

That was echoed by Smyth, who said the only real change in street gang activity has been the switch to methamphetamine as the drug of choice for traffickers.

It remains unclear just how many of Winnipeg’s homicides in 2019 are connected to gang activity.

Bourbonniere said he believes there will always be marginalized and disenfranchised individuals motivated to make money through a criminal lifestyle.

"It’s been about 30 years now that we’ve had street gangs and I think things have stayed pretty consistent. What has ebbed and flowed has been public attention. The reality is there has never been a time when there hasn’t been a thriving illicit drug trade," Bourbonniere said.

"It’s always been there. It’s a machine that just keeps running, and sometimes it’s more violent than others."

What pulls people into the gang lifestyle varies for each individual, Bourbonniere said, but there are common themes: a lack of job prospects, a lack of education, traumatic experiences, experiences of racism, family and friends involved with gangs.

“We’re just seeing people resorting to weapons and violence far too frequently.” - Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth

What’s most important, however, in Bourbonniere’s mind, is that people caught up in street gang activity can leave the criminal lifestyle behind for good.

"It’s not as difficult as people think it is. There’s a variety of gang exit strategies. It’s all specific to the actual person and their situation. I know so many people who have left and are doing well today," Bourbonniere said.

"I’m not going to solve the gang problem. I’m not going to solve criminality or the drug trade. It’s always going to be there. What I can do, is be ready and willing to be supportive and give guidance to people who want to change their lives, who want something different, who want out."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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