‘A heart of gold’: Victims of Penticton, B.C. shooting spree remembered
We’re learning more about the victims of a tragic shooting spree that left four people dead in Penticton on Monday.
John Brittain, 68, has been charged with four counts of murder in the attack, which spanned about an hour and took place at three locations.
WATCH: Penticton Shooting: RCMP update on the arrest of John Brittain
Rudi Winter, the first victim, was allegedly shot in the back while pruning a friend’s tree in downtown Penticton, according to his nephew Jeff Schwarz.
“He was a hell of a guy. He had a heart of gold, he couldn’t hurt a fly,” said Schwarz of the 71-year-old grandfather and father of two, who he said had “raised him like a father.”
“There couldn’t have been a kinder soul out there, it’s tragic… He had just a heart like you wouldn’t believe.”
Schwarz said Rudi had emigrated to Canada from Germany in his youth and that he and his wife Renate sold their business in Vancouver and moved to Penticton in the 1980s to operate a motel.
Rudi had since retired and focused his time on helping people out as a handyman, being active in his Jehovah’s Witness congregation and maintaining his garden and grape vines.
“He had a fish pond in the back and that was his passion, feeding them, covering them up, protecting them from raccoons,” he said.
“He had the back yard looking like a European village.”
WATCH: Police searching for motive after four killed in Penticton
Neighbours have identified Susan and Barry Wonch, who lived across the street from the Winters, as the victims of the shooter’s second stop. The couple had recently moved to Penticton from Osoyoos.
In a statement to Global News, family members said they were shocked and devastated by the shooting adding the couple were kind, loving people who would never hurt anyone.
“This senseless tragedy has left a massive hole in our family. We have faith that the law enforcement handling this case will continue to investigate and bring all parties involved to justice,” reads the statement.
“We extend our deepest condolences and prayers to the other innocent victims and families involved. We respectfully ask for privacy at this time.”
Neighbour Pete Shaw said he didn’t know the Wonches well, but that Barry had a hobby of restoring antiques.
“He moved here … years ago — retired, worked on used furniture, old furniture,” he said.
“He was kind of quiet, stayed to himself and worked on his furniture.”
Darlene Knippelberg, the Wonches’ next door neighbour, was the next target.
WATCH: UPDATE: Penticton RCMP release details of the day’s tragic events
She was recently widowed, and according to Schwarz lived with her 48-year-old daughter with Down syndrome.
“The mom was looking after her, and I think she’d just dropped her daughter off to do volunteer work [when it happened],” he said.
A family friend told Global News that the 75-year-old was a longtime Penticton resident, and described her as a loving, caring person.
Sources tell Global News that Brittain had once lived in the same neighbourhood, where his ex-wife still has a home — and that he allegedly had a string of disputes and grievances with his neighbours.
“When you read about this stuff all over the United States where people are shooting each other for no reason, and when it hits you in your own family, the last thing in the world you’d expect,” said Schwarz.
“The day before, my mom was there, my stepdad was there, his granddaughter was there, they were all having a barbecue — if it had happened a day earlier they would have taken out my whole family, perhaps.”
The Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and Ook-nakane Friendship Centre have scheduled a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Gyro Park.
Residents are encouraged to attend to show support for the families and friends of the victims.
— With files from Robin Gill
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said that Barry and Sue Wonch moved to Penticton from Alberta. In fact, they moved form Osoyoos.
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