HOBBEMA, Alta. – Police say they are investigating whether a 16-year-old boy’s death in a troubled aboriginal community south of Edmonton this weekend is gang-related.
RCMP in Hobbema say they were called to a firearms complaint on the Samson Cree First Nation townsite early Saturday morning.
They say the teen was fatally injured during the incident and that they’re treating the death as a homicide.
Previous violence prompted reserve residents to vote for an eviction bylaw giving leaders the power to ban suspected gang members from living in the community.
The ban followed the death of five-year-old Ethan Yellowbird, who was hit in the head by a stray bullet while he slept in a home on the reserve in 2011.
Three teens pleaded guilty to manslaughter for Ethan’s death and are awaiting sentencing.
Police said late Saturday that they believed Saturday’s death may not have been a random act and that they are checking into whether gangs may have been involved.
A cause of death wasn’t released. Police say an autopsy is planned.
RCMP Insp. Charles Wood of the Hobbema detachment said in November that since Ethan’s death, people on the reserve have been working well with the RCMP. While he said gang activity remains prevalent, the resulting violence is not as bad as it was in the community in 2011.
The use of weapons is down, Wood said, as is the number of drive-by shootings.
The Samson Cree band is still working on administrative issues on its eviction bylaw and there’s no date on when it might come into force.
No motive has been given in court for why the teens were shooting at the house when Ethan Yellowbird was killed, although police say they had gang ties.
The Samson reserve is one of four that make up the Hobbema community, about an hour’s drive south of Edmonton.
Officers are still working to solve the death of Ethan’s aunt, Chelsea Yellowbird. The 23-year-old woman was shot outside a house two months after the boy was killed. At the time, police said they believed the shooting was gang related.
In 2008, 23-month old Asia Saddleback was shot as she sat at a kitchen table eating dinner. She survived, but the bullet remained lodged between her liver and spine.