Is this the clue to catch Winnipeg's spree killer?
On the one hand you have an armed maniac responsible for three senseless attacks in less than an hour, each progressively more frightening. He started by shooting into a crowd of young teenagers, leaving one critically wounded. Then, with police cars flooding into the area, he shot a man in the back as his victim left a house a short jaunt away from the first shooting. After a short break, he finished his night by ringing the doorbell to a house to lure the homeowner out, then shooting him to death when the man realized the danger and slammed the door shut in the killer's face.
On the other hand, you have the wimpiest-ever police chief begging for help to catch the killer because the police have no leads.
“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,” 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.”
I think we can? Could he be more inspiring? (sarcasm alert)
People, particularly in the North End, have little faith the police can make an arrest. They have only to remember the brazen murder of Cheryl Robert, who was killed one year ago, July 2009, when a gunman sprayed shots at a wedding reception on Main Street. Only by the grace of God did the bullets not kill more, although at least two other guests were wounded.
The police then, too, called for the community to help find the killer.
The result: Zilch.
One problem is that the police play their cards too close to the vest. As a result they ask the public to alert them to "anything they know", a request so general and wide as to be useless.
But there's also a lot of misinformation out there that hasn't been corrected or has been misreported in the rush to deadline. And TV news only informs the audience watching for that short 3 minutes the news story runs.
Here we've tried to collate the known facts of the case from the variety of news sources, while offering suggestions to the police on how to focus the memories of members of the community.
We'll also offer our interpretation of events, and suggest where the likeliest break in the case will come from.
The killer had to get to Stella Walk, the scene of the first shooting, somehow.
Was it walk, bike or bus?
Three buses stop near Stella Walk--the Corydon, the Sargent and the Osborne. Their cameras should show whether a tall, native male dressed all in black was aboard at about 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Their drivers may remember someone that distinctive, especially if he was trying to hide a sawed off rifle.
Police could ask the public whether anyone on those buses, either heading north or south, saw anyone of that description. Or whether any motorists on Main Street near Stella about 8:15 p.m. Saturday saw a tall, native male dressed all in black crossing the street.
Walk? Not unless he lives nearby, which increases his likelihood of being recognized if only by his voice or his walk.
Bike is most likely. The streets of the North End are full of gang members on bicycles, so another one wouldn't attract any attention. One news report said the shooter stole a bicycle from a yard after the Stella Walk shooting, but its just as likely it was his bicycle stashed in a safe place for his getaway. Police haven't mentioned any stolen bike so that report seems false.
An eyewitness described the first shooting to CTV News. The man was peeking in the window of a suite when the witness first noticed him. A group of teens passed by. They didn't see the man, but he saw them.
"He was just standing there. Then these five teenagers walked by and he followed them," the woman told CTV.
He followed them and approached them in the vicinity of 261 Stella Walk.
One of the group told the Winnipeg Free Press the man had his face masked. The newspaper today says he was wearing a balaclava, but the impression we got was that he might have been covering his face with a bandana which gang members often wear on their Bebo pages.
Original reports said the man asked the teens if they wanted to buy some marijuana. The Free Press reported today that the father of the victim said the kids were actually asked if they knew where he (the man) could buy some weed. Either way, they told him No.
Without warning he pulled out his gun and shot at the group.
The Winnipeg Free Press said he had a sawed off shotgun. But video of the scene suggests it was a sawed off rifle or handgun. A window has a round bullet hole through it. News footage from inside the suite shows the bullet hit the corner of a desk, splintered the wood, then ricocheted down into the wall above the baseboard. It penetrated the wall into the floor of the next room.
Three shots were fired. One hit 13-year-old Samantha Stevenson in the stomach, the bullet passing through her liver and leaving her close to death. According to a couple of witnesses, the shooter climbed on his bicycle and slowly rode past Samantha, admiring his handiwork.
"And he calmly walked to his bike and rode off like nothing happened," said the CTV eyewitness.
The first call to 911 came at 8:30, according to the breakdown of police reaction that night, reported by the FP. One police call said the shooter was going eastbound. That would mean he likely hit King Street, turned south to Dufferin or a lane behind Dufferin, then doubled back west until hitting Salter.
Police should ask if anyone walking or living on King Street if they saw anyone on a bicycle just before 8:30 on Saturday. Especially a bicycle in a hurry. Especially a bicycle that whipped around onto Dufferin or the back lane heading west.
Police should ask any motorists on Salter about 8:30 p.m. Saturday if they saw someone on a bicycle hellbent for leather crossing the street heading west into the lane behind Dufferin.
Crossing Salter, the shooter would take the back lane west, possibly as far as Andrews. He likely dumped his bicycle somewhere near there.
As police and paramedics converged on Stella Walk, including a canine unit, the unthinkable happened. A second shooting. Only 7 l/2 blocks away.
The spree killer had shot Thomas Beardy, 35, in the back and in the leg as he was leaving 495 Dufferin Ave.
The owner of the house, Roderick Pelletier, saw the shooter running away, i.e. no bicycle.
Only 10 minutes since the first shooting, with police seconds away, its unlikely the killer hopped on his bike to outrun the cops. A more believable scenario is he started running through yards.
The police department was having a major problem responding to the Dufferin call. The dispatcher couldn't raise any free cruiser cars. Police that should have been available were tied up on crowd control at the annual Zombie March downtown. Officers already at Stella Walk had to assign themselves to rush 7 blocks to the Dufferin shooting. By the time they got there, about 4 minutes later, the shooter was long gone.
Where did he go? For the next half hour, the shooter was M.I.A.
If the police found his bicycle, they should tell the public. Otherwise they should specifically ask residents in the William Whyte section of the North End whether they saw someone between 8:45 and 9 p.m. Saturday putting a bicycle in a porch or riding up to a house and abandoning a bike in the yard.
And then, the shooter showed up in a most unexpected place.
486 Boyd Avenue. A beautiful nicely-kept house on a middle-class street a quarter mile from the housing projects at Stella Walk and the decrepit homes on Dufferin.
It was 9:12 p.m. He rang the doorbell. Ian MacDonald, 52, went to answer. We know two shots were fired, one through a window in the door. MacDonald was shot in the heart and died.
But not before he slammed the door shut and locked it.
And we know the police, for reasons unexplained, suspect the shooter was accompanied by a woman this time.
The police are being coy about linking the three incidents to one shooter. They've even given out three equally useless descriptions of three possible shooters. Is it any more comforting to believe that there were two, or even three, homicidal maniacs out shooting people in the North End on Saturday? Now that would be a coincidence, wouldn't it.
Instead, let's assume the obvious---one time period means one shooter, one killer.
And it's the time period that may lead to his identify.
There's something very unusual about when the spree killer did his work.
Most shootings occur in the wee hours of the morning---after, or just before, the bars close at 2 a.m. These shootings took place at a time when you expect lots of people to be out and about, on foot or in cars, going to wherever they'll spend their Saturday evening.
And this Saturday evening was a special night, particularly for the type of person likely to carry and use a gun. Here's some clues:
Every goon in town Saturday night was going to watch UFC 121 featuring the return of Brock Lesnar to the octagon. It was obligatory in their world.
Spike TV was carrying two preliminary bouts at 8 p.m. The pay-per-view started at 9 p.m. with a fight between two non-entities. In other words, easily missed. You could buy your ticket at your bar of choice at 7 or 8 p.m., get your hand stamped, and still slip out to do some business before the marquee fights started.
While the police were searching for a man dressed in black and riding a bicycle, did they pass right by the car with the couple out for the evening?
The police eventually wound up searching the foot of Burrows Avenue. Still chasing bicycles? Without looking just a few blocks further north to where the overhead sign advertised UFC 121 with Brock Lesnar?
Did the shooter show up at Boogies on Main Street about 9:20 p.m. invigorated, welcomed by his buds, pumped for some pay-per-view action with the first fight just underway? And with the chick carrying the gun, just in case?
An outlandish theory?
It's still better than "I think we can."