A family member of a 19-year-old woman charged with stabbing a 12-year-old boy to death on a North End street last week says there’s more to the crime than meets the eye.
The Free Press has learned Shania Pirrie has been charged with manslaughter. She was released into the custody of her family after the fatal stabbing on Burrows Avenue near Main Street Friday night.
Police announced the arrest Tuesday, but refused to release the name of the accused.
A male who identified himself as a family member of Pirrie’s told the Free Press outside the family home Tuesday that the incident "seemed to be" an act of self-defence, noting that Pirrie is a mother herself.
"She didn’t want to (do it)," he said.
"If you’d seen the way she was, like how I’d seen her, the day it happened and the couple days after it happened, you would know."
He said he hadn’t heard much more about the incident, but called it "horrific."
A woman who did not identify herself emerged from the home and informed a reporter there were children inside and that the family had received death threats.
"We don’t have anything to say," she said.
As the Free Press arrived at Pirrie’s residence Tuesday afternoon, so did police, who met the family outside of the home.
The yard surrounding the home had a children's pool. On its windows was a tribute to the 215 Indigenous children who died at a Kamloops, B.C. residential school.
Spencer Bucci, who lives with his father on Burrows Avenue, described the stabbing to the Free Press Saturday.
He said on Friday night, he heard people shouting at each other through his open window, as he relaxed with his girlfriend. When he looked out, he saw two groups of people. One group consisted of three or four boys and a girl, he said. "The oldest one might have been 15; the youngest maybe 10."
The other group was a young woman and young man pushing a stroller with two children, who both looked under five, said Bucci.
"The woman was yelling, ‘Get away from us!’ and ‘Don’t come close to us!’ and it looked like she had a knife in her hand," he said.
The knife looked long, maybe 15 centimetres, and had a dark blade, said Bucci.
Bucci said he then heard people yelling from down the street. He turned and saw people coming. When he looked back a moment later, he said, the boy had already been stabbed. Police said an off-duty nurse nearby helped officers treat the boy. He died in hospital that evening.
A spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Police Service said police would typically release the name of an accused, but decided against it in this case.
"This is a very sensitive case being the victim is 12 years old. In the spirit of due process and potential safety concerns, we will not be providing any details regarding this investigation at this time," Const. Dani McKinnon said in an email.
Pirrie appeared before a judicial justice of the peace shortly after 7 a.m. Tuesday and was released with the consent of the Crown, under the conditions she not move from the home of a Winnipeg family member without permission of the court, that she possess no weapons, and have no contact with four named witnesses.
Her next court date is Sept. 21.
The victim's mother, Joni Gabriel, said her son Sanchez Everette Boulanger was the second oldest of six siblings.
She stood outside a sparse grey home on a North End street, where kids played in the front yard and others sat in the back yard and had something to eat. She told a reporter she wasn't sure what to make of the arrest.
"I was happy," Gabriel said, but also confused.
"They said they made an arrest; it was manslaughter. I got mad at them and I was like, shouldn't it be murder?"
She said her son was a Grade 7 student who enjoyed going to school.
"He was polite. He had a soft heart," she said of Sanchez.
But he recently got caught up with the wrong crowd, which worried her.
"He stopped wanting to go (to school), he started talking back more to me, hanging around kids I didn't really like," Gabriel said.
"He was always hanging around with a bit older boys, going with them... I'd be telling them 'this can't happen'. He wouldn't listen to me."
Police have said little about the stabbing, but have called it "exceptionally troubling."
Police believe the confrontation was not gang-related, said Const. Jay Murray at a press conference Saturday. He said police believe the groups "may not have known each other" before the attack. "Numerous" community members called in to report the argument or the stabbing itself, he said.
— with files from Dean Pritchard and Cody Sellar
Erik Pindera is a multimedia producer at the Winnipeg Free Press.
Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.