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String of Calgary homicides presents complex challenge for taxed police officers

Five deaths from the past week don’t appear to be connected, but Calgary’s police chief said they believe they’re all targeted attacks.

Investigators from several units have been brought in to help with these cases, police said.

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld said he didn’t want the fact they believe all the attacks are targeted to diminish from the tragedy.

“I think at this point, with what’s going on, that it’s important to reassure Calgarians that there is little or no chance that they will be targeted with the type of violence we have seen recently if they are not connected to high-risk lifestyles or hang around those who do,” he said.

He said CPS fears collateral damage in some of these attacks, where innocent bystanders could be caught in the crossfire. It’s something that nearly happened in a Boxing Day shooting, Neufeld said, when a car passing by a scene was struck with stray bullets.

Here are the other recent deaths:

  • On Dec. 30, one person was killed and another injured in Rundle after a shooting. Police are looking for information about the driver of a white 2018 Ford Fusion.
  • On Jan. 1, a man was killed after an altercation at Alpha House (203 – 15 Avenue SE) at roughly 6:50 p.m., police said. It’s believed he later died of injuries from that fight.
  • One person was killed and another left in critical condition after a shooting in Saddleridge on Jan. 4. Police believe several people may have witnessed that shooting and are asking them to come forward with information.
  • One person died after a serious assault in the downtown, around the 100 block of 11 Avenue SE. Police are reviewing CCTV footage to determine how many people may have been involved in that attack.
  • The body of a person discovered engulfed in flames in Fish Creek Park Sunday is still undetermined, but an autopsy is scheduled for Jan. 8 to determine cause of death and ID.

Neufeld said a drive-by shooting into a home in Auburn Bay was the result of a mistaken address. No one was home at the time.

‘You could tell who belonged to who’

There were roughly 80 Calgary shootings in 2019, Neufeld said, and investigations into these crimes is becoming more complex.

He said hundreds of people are involved in “high-risk lifestyles,” but it’s much different from prior years, when you could identify gang members more easily.

“In 2015 – around the more distinguishable gangs, they were more traditional. You could tell who belonged with who,” Neufeld said.

Groups are fluid. Individuals move between different groups, and also to different cities across the province and country. Neufeld said the Boxing Day shooting on Home Road NW is an example of this. The victim was from Ontario, had just come from British Columbia, but was killed in Calgary. They’re working on that investigation with Toronto Police.

“What ties them all together are criminal networks seeking to profit illegitimately through the drug trade,” Neufeld said.

Suppression of gun violence a top priority for CPS

Neufeld said they’re finalizing a strategy that has four streams: Predicting, protecting, preventing and pursuing those involved in the gun violence. He said it’s the number one external priority for CPS.

He said the public needs to be a part of stemming the rise in recent violence.

“We know there are people who know what’s going on inside these groups,” Neufeld said.

Dealing with the cluster of events over the past two weeks has stretched their membership thin, Neufeld said. Over the holidays it’s taken an obvious toll on resources, but he said there’s a personal toll, impacts on relationships and a public cost in terms of uncertainty and fear.

He addressed social media posts over the weekend as CPS was dealing with these events, informing Calgarians CPS may be delayed in responding to other calls.

“These cases are extremely resource-intensive and they do impact the service that we can provide to citizens on other matters,” Neufeld said.

“It’s simply a matter of prioritization.”