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‘A piece of my heart is missing’; violent crime in 2020 leaves Winnipeg families grieving

Click to play video '“It’s like a piece of my heart is gone,” 2020 another violent, deadly year in Winnipeg' “It’s like a piece of my heart is gone,” 2020 another violent, deadly year in Winnipeg
WATCH: 2020 nearly matched the bleak high-water mark set only the year before for homicides. Global's Marney Blunt connects with one heartbroken family – Jan 8, 2021

Forty-two Winnipeggers were lost to violent crime in 2020, changing the lives of 42 families forever.

One of those families is the family of 29-year-old Joshua Hansen, who was killed outside the Mount Royal Hotel in early August.

Five months later, the wounds are still raw for his family.

“I’m still in shock, still waiting for his call to tell me he’s okay,” his mother Elizabeth Thomas said while fighting back tears.

“Who buries their own child? That’s a parents worst nightmare, is to bury their own child.”

Read more: Man, teen charged in stabbing death of Winnipeg man also charged in 2 stabbings earlier that night

That day in early August is one his sister Alexi will never forget.

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“When it happened I remember I was in shock and disbelief that something like this could happen to me and my family,” Alexi Hansen said. “And I remember screaming at the top of my lungs and I remember feeling that pain, that pain of loss knowing that there was no going back, I would never see my brother again.

“It put me in a situation where I felt helpless because I knew I couldn’t say or do anything to change what had happened.”

Two men have been charged with manslaughter in Hansen’s death, including a youth. The two were also charged in two separate stabbings that happened the same day Hansen was killed.

The family says manslaughter charges aren’t enough.

“Manslaughter charge on a youth is a maximum of three years. That will not serve for the death of my son,” Thomas said. “He didn’t deserve to die in such a violent way. He hated violence.”

Now, the family holds on to their memories to while trying to move forward.

They remember Joshua as warm-hearted, two-spirited, and a talented hoop dancer who hoop danced all over the globe.

Joshua Hansen’s family says he travelled all over the world for hoop dancing. Supplied / Alexi Hansen

Thomas has a cabinet filled with photos, flowers, and some of Josh’s items inside her Teulon home. She also wears a necklace in the shape of a heart with Joshua’s fingerprint engraved on the back.

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“It’s like a piece of my heart is gone and I can never get it back,” she said.

2020 homicides near record

In 2020, there were 42 homicides in city, nearing the 2019 record of 44.

Const. Rob Carver of the Winnipeg Police Service says there haven’t been any particular patterns to the deaths.

“Sometimes they occur in patterns, sometimes in no patterns. Unless there’s an underlying influence, such as a turf war in a gang dispute, which there wasn’t last year (and) there wasn’t this year,” Carver said.

“We know there are some regular underlying factors. Drugs and or alcohol are underlying factors in the majority of our homicides, if not gang activity itself, then underlying elements of criminal activity really permeate those numbers.”

Read more: Winnipeg’s 2020 homicide rate nearing last year’s record

Carver also says the level of homicides takes a toll on their officers.

“Our investigators become very, very involved in those homicides at a personal level,” he said.

“Those officers take that very personally and very seriously. It’s hard. I talk to them regularly, and it’s without question one of the most difficult things we do as police officers.”

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Joshua Hansen’s family says hearing of the amount of violent crime in Winnipeg is troubling. So much so, Alexi Hansen chose to move out of the city after her brother’s death.

“I just want to see change in this city because nothing is getting better and everything is getting worse,” she said.

“So what they’re doing isn’t working, people are getting stabbed, shot, killed left and right and something needs to be done because this shouldn’t be happening to people, this shouldn’t be happening to anybody, there needs to be change.”

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