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Police investigate the site of the first of the three shootings.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Police investigate the site of the first of the three shootings.

A triple shooting incident in north Winnipeg last fall had the earmarks of a random and senseless rampage by a lone killer.

With no apparent link among the three victims -- two dead and one badly wounded -- and police seemingly baffled, it looked like the killer could resurface at any time and target anybody.

But quietly, Winnipeg police have been gathering evidence and although they have not laid charges, they have gathered information, interviewed witnesses and are pursuing leads on more than one suspect.

They are also open to the possibility the shootings were not all random.

 

To recap the Saturday night of Oct. 23, 2010:

At 8:30 p.m., a 13-year-old girl was shot and badly wounded on Stella Walk. A witness recalls seeing, just before the shots, a cyclist who looked "like a ninja." At 8:40 p.m., at 495 Dufferin Ave., a 35-year-old man heading out a back door after delivering hamburgers to his friends was shot dead. And at 9:14 p.m., a 52-year-old man answering a knock on the door of his bungalow at 486 Boyd Ave., about 11 blocks away, was also shot dead. In the following days, police offered a reward of up to $6,000 for information.

Then... silence.

But police have worked steadily on the case and have eyewitness information that ties two people to one of the shootings.

Information provided to police indicates the third shooting, at 486 Boyd, which killed 52-year-old Ian MacDonald, doesn't appear random at all.

Shortly before that shooting, a woman emerged from behind a home on the north side of the street, followed by a man, and both headed across towards the white bungalow.

The man wore dark clothing and was estimated to be in his 20s. The woman was in a distinctive beige or gold coat with the hood up.

FIRST SHOOTING: 8:30 p.m., 261 Stella Walk. A masked man with a handgun and on a bike is seen trailing a group of teens. Three quick shots are fired. A girl is struck in the upper body. Cyclist is seen riding away from scene.

FIRST SHOOTING: 8:30 p.m., 261 Stella Walk. A masked man with a handgun and on a bike is seen trailing a group of teens. Three quick shots are fired. A girl is struck in the upper body. Cyclist is seen riding away from scene.

After the gunshots, the pair instantly took off running back across the street together towards the house on the north side of Boyd, possibly leaving a gate in front of the home swinging open. How they escaped is unknown.

Interviews by the Free Press indicate investigators are tracing various leads on the case.

People interviewed by officers have been shown photos of possible suspects.

After the shootings, a source said police collected surveillance recordings of one of the homes in the neighbourhood hit that night, which they've used to identify people of interest.

"Somebody knows specifically what happened. Somebody knows who this suspect or suspects are," Winnipeg police Chief Keith McCaskill said this week.

"We've followed up many, many leads, homicide (unit) has, and we're not there yet. We're still doing more work, but we do need the public's help."

McCaskill said the information could come from sources like a public tip or an informant.

Though months have gone by and forensic evidence has been collected, police are still not linking all three shootings, though McCaskill said there's a "strong possibility" they're connected.

Fear of being caught snitching to the police doesn't help draw out tipsters, especially in a neighbourhood where people fear retaliation.

"That's the biggest reason why this guy hasn't been caught -- people are scared to talk," said the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre executive director Mark Fleming, whose community centre is across the street from where the first shooting happened, wounding 13-year-old Samantha Stevenson.

Nancy Flett, the IMFC's assistant executive director, said people also fear their names or faces being shown in news coverage.

"We have so many gang members living around here and (people) don't want any negativity coming back to them," Flett said.

Fleming said people might not only fear for their lives due to retaliation, but also might be intimidated by police.

SECOND SHOOTING: 8:40-8:45 p.m., 495 Dufferin Ave. Two shots fired. One man hit.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

SECOND SHOOTING: 8:40-8:45 p.m., 495 Dufferin Ave. Two shots fired. One man hit.

"You've got to think, you're a community resident, you might not be overly educated, you're shy, you're young," said Fleming. "It's hard to go up to a police officer."

Samantha's father, Don Stevenson, said his daughter's behaviour has changed since she survived being shot in the stomach.

He believes the shootings may have been part of a gang initiation, a possibility McCaskill said police have examined.

"People are just not coming forward. Like, people know, but they're not saying nothing," Stevenson said.

He believes the gunman targeted his daughter because she was wearing boyish clothing that night, not because the suspect knew her.

A man had come up to the girl and her friends and offered them pot before shooting at them and taking off on a bike.

A teenage boy with her had his clothing grazed by a bullet, but wasn't hurt.

"That guy only shot at the boys," Stevenson said.

Descriptions released by police after the shootings said they were looking for a skinny, six-foot aboriginal man on a mountain bike in the first shooting in the 200 block of Stella Walk, in the Lord Selkirk Park housing development. Police also said they were looking for an adult man or woman in the second shooting in the 400 block of Dufferin Avenue.

The only common trait of the suspect described in both shootings was the dark clothing.

Roderick Pelletier, who found 35-year-old Thomas Beardy lying outside the back door of his Dufferin Avenue home, said he only got a glimpse of someone ducking behind some boards moments after the gun went off. It's less than a kilometre from where Stevenson was hit about 10 minutes before.

He said Beardy had stopped by briefly and was headed out to where he'd left his bike leaning near the back door when he was hit in the back and leg.

"I think (the shooter) had a hoodie on or something," said Pelletier, adding he believes the person was a "young man."

THIRD SHOOTING: 9:14 p.m., 486 Boyd Ave. Two shots fired. One man hit.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

THIRD SHOOTING: 9:14 p.m., 486 Boyd Ave. Two shots fired. One man hit.

About 35 minutes later, at the Boyd Avenue home almost 11 blocks directly north of the second shooting on Dufferin, and after police flooded the neighbourhood, the third set of shots rang out in what appears to be a planned attack by two people. The question is, why was that specific white bungalow targeted?

The home was certainly well-known in the neighbourhood. It attracted lots of foot traffic and people there had been booted out of a nearby property on Boyd over allegations of drug dealing.

Earlier reports said the shooting happened after MacDonald answered a knock at the bungalow's side door and was hit by two shots that shattered the door's window.

After the shooting, MacDonald was portrayed as a hero by friends, who said he had tried to push the door shut during the attack.

Police have previously said a woman may have been involved in the Boyd Avenue shooting, but have released no description of her to date.

The man involved was described by police as a 5-foot-8 aboriginal man in dark clothing.

"It just doesn't make any sense to me," said Charlie Thorgrimson, MacDonald's roommate. "Ian knew a lot more people than I did."

Although a police spokesman said soon after the shootings they appeared to be random, McCaskill has opened the door to the possibility of a targeted attack at some point that night.

"We're keeping a very open mind in this," he said.

 

Gabrielle.giroday@freepress.mb.ca

44 minutes

OF mayhem

 

Two men are dead and one young girl is seriously injured following three shootings in a 44-minute period in the North End on a Saturday night last October. Here is the timeline of the shootings.

 

First shooting

8:30 p.m., 261 Stella Walk

A masked man with a handgun and on a bike is seen trailing a group of teens. Three quick shots are fired. A girl is struck in the upper body. Cyclist is seen riding away from scene.

 

Second shooting

8:40-8:45 p.m., 495 Dufferin Ave.

Two shots fired. One man hit.

 

Third shooting

9:14 p.m., 486 Boyd Ave.

Two shots fired. One man hit.