Pubdate: Sat, 28 Jun 2008
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2008 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Rosemary Westwood, with files from Jamie Hall


Residents Fear Shootings Were Drug-Related, 3 Victims Airlifted To Edmonton

EDMONTON - Concerned community members in Fort McMurray gathered at a 
school Friday to get answers from RCMP about the police lockdown that 
cordoned off an entire neighbourhood for six hours Thursday after a shooting.

The 90-minute meeting had a positive atmosphere, said Fort McMurray 
Catholic school board superintendent Kim Jenkins.

"Not that there weren't some concerns, but it wasn't hostile," said Jenkins.

RCMP and municipal officials hosted the town hall meeting, attended 
by a few dozen people, to reassure community members that the 
shooting that sent three men to hospital wounds was targeted, not a 
random attack.

Officials also explained the RCMP's lockdown procedure.

"It was an opportunity for us to explain our actions last night in 
terms of the lockdown in the community and the containment that was 
set up," said Const. Ali Fayad. "We understand that some people were 
obviously effected, some more than others."

RCMP responded to multiple reports of gunshots in the Abasand 
neighbourhood around 3 p.m. Thursday and subsequently blocked off the 
only road to and from that development, asking residents to stay inside.

"We're very confident and we're still confident today that we made 
the right decision," Fayad said of the lockdown.

Community members raised some concerns that RCMP don't respond to 
calls about suspicious activity in their neighbourhoods quickly 
enough, said Jenkins. He said RCMP explained that it takes time to 
search a house for criminal activity.

Jenkins said the talk then turned to how community members can better 
help RCMP crack down on crime.

"We're looking for the public to understand why it's so important 
they lend a helping hand," said Fayad.

He said people often assume RCMP know about suspicious incidents.

"It's very likely we have no clue that there's suspicious incidents 
going on at that house."

Fayad would not say how many people RCMP are looking for or the ages 
of the victims.

A spokesman for Northern Lights Regional Hospital said three men were 
airlifted to hospitals in Edmonton.

One was in critical but stable condition at the University of Alberta 
Hospital. Two other victims were taken to Royal Alexandra Hospital, 
where one is in stable condition and the other has been discharged.

One parent who was shut in at Father Beauregard School with two of 
her children during the lockdown said earlier Friday she already 
suspected the shooting was drug-related.

"I think it has something to do with drugs; they're everywhere here," 
said Charlotte Alexander.

Alexander was one of 25 parents and staff and 21 children who spent 
six hours inside the school Thursday while RCMP scoured the Abasand 
neighbourhood in search of the shooters.

There is no evidence that links the shooting to previous shootings in 
Fort McMurray over the past two months, including one on Wednesday 
that involved a shootout between two vehicles in the Timberlea area.

"The last couple of months here have not been good ones in terms of 
serious incidents, but what we want to make clear here is that in all 
of them we believe the victims have been targeted," said Fayad.
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