On four occasions in the past two months – August 4 and 30, Sept. 5 and 20 – Mistissini has become one large shooting range for local partiers. It seems to be the big thing now is to get drunk with your friends, pull out your closest firearm and start shooting.
“It was never like that before,” said my father Charles Matoush when I asked him what he thought of the recent incidents. “Guns were only used to hunt – nothing else.”
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse… people are actually getting shot.
On August 4, Willard William Trapper was shot in the leg by a Mistissini police officer after a confrontation. Drunk and in a fit of rage, Trapper shot about 40 bullets at anything he could aim at, including my sister’s house. You don’t realize how serious something has become until you hear your adolescent niece explain to you that her bedroom window is just feet away from where a bullet hit.
On September 19, I decided to head up to Mistissini for a calm and relaxing weekend with my other sister and brother-in-law who is a police officer. Saturday was supposed to be a quiet day, we were all going to go into the bush and help dig a hole for my parents’ outhouse on their new piece of land just 10 minutes outside of the community.
Instead, my brother-in-law got an emergency call and has to rush back home to get changed into his uniform. Not being able to do anything to help, my sister and I decided to go into the bush anyway. As we drove off towards my parents’ land, an SQ car raced past us, heading towards the community at full speed. I later learned that this was the second SQ car called to Mistissini to help assist with the situation.
My nosey instinct kicked in at once and I had to find out what was going on.
The perpetrator was Aaron Swallow. At first the SQ didn’t want to confirm his
name and I couldn’t abuse the fact that I had family in the local police force to get more information than had been released. So after my brother-in-law kindly arranged an interview for me, I went to the police station where I met Sandra Dion, Agente aux communications for the Quebec City police department. Later, I had the chance to speak to different local people and hear their versions of the story.
Swallow is a 23-year-old Mistissini man, already known to the police and who was having issues with violence, and his girlfriend. After a long night of partying, Swallow severely beat up his girlfriend. She decided to go to the health clinic to receive treatment early Saturday morning and had even threatened Swallow that she would speak to the police and show them what he had done to her.
Swallow “lost it”, according to local residents, and locked himself in his house with several firearms. He eventually left the house leading police towards the water just in front of the Mistissini Lodge where he was shot four times by SQ officers – once in the chest, once in the arm and twice in the legs. Since the incident involved both the SQ and the local police, police officers from Quebec City were sent up to investigate.
While discussing the incident with community members that night and the following day, some thought that the police were too quick to use their guns on Swallow. Dion assured me that it was necessary. “The minute that a police officer pulls the trigger,” she said, “he or she knows that it will be looked at and investigated from every angle.”
Again like in the case of Trapper in August, the police needed to make a fast decision based on whether they thought their lives were danger. They can’t take a chance. As in the case of Swallow, he had two firearms and refused to let go of them even aiming them at the police. “People need to respect authority,” said Dion. “If you don’t respect the police, who do you respect?”
I think what worries people the most though, is what will happen next. First it was just some random shootings aimed towards the bush or the sky at parties. Then came the shootings by Willard William Trapper and Aaron Swallow, who got themselves shot in return.
What if a child playing in the street is next, or a police officer or any innocent person passing by? And even worse, what if next time it leads to a fatality? This trend needs to be controlled before it gets out of hand.
If you want to party, that’s fine. But stay happy and leave the guns safely stored at home.