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‘We’re committed to finding this person, and if you ask me “Do you think we can?” I think we can... Together we can solve this’ - Chief Keith McCaskill

KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

‘We’re committed to finding this person, and if you ask me “Do you think we can?” I think we can... Together we can solve this’ - Chief Keith McCaskill

Police seemingly have no suspects, no motive and no weapon. They aren't sure if they are searching for one gunman, two or even three. It's possible there was an accomplice. Or maybe not. The masked man -- or is that men? -- may have fled on a bicycle. Or on foot. Or by some other means.

The killer may be as short as 5-8. Or as tall as six feet. He could be a teenager. Or an adult. He may be a man. Or she may be a woman. Or perhaps they are a couple?

Such is the confusing nature of the ongoing manhunt surrounding Saturday night's apparently random shooting spree that left two victims dead and a third in hospital. The search is entering a third day with more questions than answers -- but a vow from the city's top officer to pull out all the stops.

"This is an awful, awful event and we're certainly committed to the public to do everything we possibly can to get these people in front of the courts," police Chief Keith McCaskill said Monday. "We're committed to finding this person, and if you ask me 'Do you think we can?' I think we can."

Veteran police and justice officials have expressed shock at the brazenness of the shootings, which occurred during a 45-minute period in the city's North End. Despite flooding the area with police cars following the initial attack on a 13-year-old girl, police were unable to stop the two subsequent attacks, which left both victims dead. In fact, officers tending to the first slaying victim heard shots ringing out nearby for what would be the second fatal attack, and third overall.

"This is getting to the point of ridiculousness now," retired Winnipeg police detective Bill Vandergraaf told the Free Press on Monday.

The 29-year veteran worked more homicides than he cares to remember and admits officers have their work cut out for them in this latest investigation.

Based on his extensive experience, Vandergraaf said officers are likely coming at the case from all angles, but with a particular emphasis on known gang members and associates in the neighbourhood who may know something based on their criminal networking. "I'm sure they're putting the squeeze on them all over the city, getting in their faces, finding out what they know, taking them down for anything they can," said Vandergraaf.

Officers investigate on Dufferin Avenue Saturday.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

Officers investigate on Dufferin Avenue Saturday.

"I'm sure the gangs are going to be watching themselves very closely for the next while."

He said the apparent random pattern -- coupled with the fact there are no apparent links between the victims -- puts the case in a rare category.

"The most difficult thing for police is to get into the mind of a killer," said Vandergraaf.

"The investigators here are going to be looking at all kinds of motives."

Vandergraaf said possible theories will likely include a gang initiation taken to the extreme, a crazed killer fuelled by a reaction to drugs or mental illness, or even a disgruntled citizen with a personal vendetta.

McCaskill said Monday he's confident investigators will locate the suspect or suspects who are responsible for the city's latest headline-making bout of violence. He said homicide investigators are working "around the clock."

"It's something that any law-abiding society cannot condone," he said. He also said due to the circumstances of the three shootings, such as the close geographic proximity and the timing, police are looking at whether the shootings are connected and the same shooter is involved.

McCaskill said police deployed their street crimes and tactical support units, as well as community support unit, to the North End. A mobile-command vehicle was deployed to the North End to boost officer presence on the street.

Attorney General Andrew Swan said Monday the provincial government will offer whatever support it can to help the police service. Swan said he spoke to McCaskill several times on the weekend to get updates on the case and has made sure the province's victims services unit is helping the families of the two men and the young girl.

"If there's additional officers to be deployed to deal with this, if there's additional things that we can do to help the police do their job, we will make sure that we have those resources there," Swan said.

"If there is going to be overtime, if there's going to be additional things the police believe that they need to do to do a full investigation and apprehend whoever is responsible, I wanted to make the chief very, very aware, that the province stands with our police service."

Swan also said he had no criticism of the police service and the steps it took in the aftermath of the shootings to urge residents in the North End to stay in their homes.

"The Winnipeg Police Service did make a very unusual suggestion to Winnipeggers, especially people in that area of the city. We certainly ask Winnipeggers to listen carefully to what the police service has to say and I think the police service has acted very appropriately in this case," Swan said.

McCaskill said officer will continue to canvass witnesses to try to get information about the shootings.

"It's also to send a message to the people or person responsible for this that we're going to do as much as we possibly can to bring them to custody," he said.

McCaskill also implored the public to share information with police that could lead to a break in the case.

"Together, we can solve this," he said.

Vandergraaf said the public likely holds the key to cracking the case.

"The police are going to be expecting some good information coming forward. And I think they're going to get it," he said.

www.mikeoncrime.com gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
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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.

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