Suspect ‘opened fire in the building’: At least five dead, one person in custody, in La Loche school shooting
Star Phoenix, January 22, 2016
“Right now, La Loche is devastated,” said an emotional First Nation chief after at least five people were killed and a suspect was taken into custody after a daytime shooting at the community school in the northern Saskatchewan community.
Those in the remote Dene town of about 3,000 people on the eastern shore of Lac La Loche were left searching for answers and details but found themselves with only more questions in the wake of the shooting, approximately six hours north of Saskatoon.
“The community usually pulls together really strong in times like this,” said Clearwater River Dene Nation Chief Teddy Clark on Friday.
“Both Clearwater and La Loche, a lot of people are in shock. This is something that you only see on TV most of the time.”
Acting Mayor Kevin Janvier said RCMP confirmed to him that one person was in custody but he did not know anything about the suspect. According to The Canadian Press, the community’s fire chief said a boy with a gun was in custody. Janiver said that there were several people taken to hospital, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later saying that two were critically injured.
Trudeau, addressing the country in a nationally-televised speech, said he wanted to “express both our sympathy and support” for those impacted and in the community and also thanked first responders, who he said “acted swiftly and bravely.”
According to Trudeau, the RCMP commissioner confirmed to him the death toll and that a suspect was in custody, bringing the situation “under control.”
“It’s just tragic and everybody’s running around,” said Janvier, adding that to his understanding the shooting at the school took place when an individual walked in and “opened fire in the building.”
According to multiple sources, there was a shooting incident at a residence, followed by a shooting at the school.
School co-ordinator Norma Janvier said she was in her office when she heard gunshots.
“I didn’t know what was going on … I thought the kids were just playing around or something, like a locker slamming and stuff,” she said.
She was going to check on the noise, but a teacher closed her office door, so Janvier stayed inside until she was told it was safe to leave.
“All I heard was cops running around in the school.”
According to RCMP and the La Loche Community School, a lockdown was in place for much of the afternoon and the district was dealing with what it called an “emergency” and was “asking the public to stay away while the matter is resolved by the RCMP.” STARS Ambulance was dispatched from Saskatoon. Ken Ladouceur, the Northern Lights School Division’s director of education, says he received a call from the principal of La Loche Community School on Friday shortly after 1 p.m.
“Obviously this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” the prime minister said during his press conference. “All of us across this country’s hearts are going out to the families and to the whole community.
“We all grieve with and stand with the community of La Loche and all of Saskatchewan on this terrible, tragic day.”
La Loche Community School is for pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12, and houses approximately 900 students in two buildings, according to the school’s Facebook page. According to the district, the emergency was “occurring at the Dene Building,” which is for Grades 7 to 12. Ducharme elementary school was also placed under a lockdown for much of the afternoon. It ended around 3 p.m.
“We are in the preliminary stages of investigation,” said RCMP in a news release. “Further details will be provided as they become available.” An RCMP press conference in Regina was tentatively scheduled for around 7 p.m.
Premier Brad Wall said words “cannot express my shock and sorrow at the horrific events today in La Loche.
“My thoughts and prayers are with all the victims, their families and friends and all the people of the community. Thank you to the RCMP and all the emergency personnel who responded quickly to the shootings. Saskatchewan Education and Social Services will be available to provide all necessary crisis support and counselling services to the school and the community,” said Wall in a statement.
Georgina Jolibois, NDP MP for Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, said she was heartbroken over the news.
“As the former mayor of La Loche, I am shocked and saddened by the shooting in the Dene Building at the La Loche Community School in my riding. The shooting hits close to home for me as my family members attend the school,” she said in a statement.
“The community of La Loche is strong and closely knit. We have faced adversity in the past and we will persevere. My thoughts and prayers are with all students, staff and families affected as we begin on the path of healing as a community.”
Like so many others, Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger used the word “devastating.” He said now is “the time for prayers. It’s just been a shock, no question about that.
“People don’t realize how many good people are up there, building up the students, building up the school. Good people, good staff, then this happens, and all that good work is undone. But they’ll keep on working, I think,” he said.
Belanger said he was in Saskatoon when he heard about the incident, and was still dealing with conflicting reports. He said he planned to drive to his home in Ile-a-la-Crosse Friday and then to La Loche Saturday morning to “see how I can help.”
Choking on his words, Belanger said, “This is a tough one. A real tough one. It’s changed lives, this. Changed lives for sure.”
Opposition Leader Cam Broten said on Twitter that he was “shocked and saddened by news of a school shooting in La Loche. My thoughts are with all students, staff and families affected.”
The annual suicide rate in the Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority is the highest of any health authority in Saskatchewan. The area, which includes La Loche, Buffalo Narrows, Ile a la Crosse and other communities in the province’s northwest, averaged 43.4 suicide deaths per 100,000 people between 2008 and 2012. That’s more than triple the average annual provincial rate of 12.7 suicide deaths per 100,000. The average annual suicide rates in the Saskatoon and Regina Qu’Appelle health authorities were 10.2 and 11.5 per 100,000 people respectively for the same time frame.