Residents of Eastmain are still reeling from the aftershock of a shooting incident involving two local youths. The boys, aged 10 and 11, who can’t be named under the Youth Protection Act, went on a shooting spree, fled in stolen canoes, and were only apprehended with the assistance of a SWAT team from Montreal and Rouyn.
While some details are still unclear, the incident began on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 3. At around 2 p.m. the two boys in question, who had a .22 caliber rifle and four boxes of bullets (50 per box), had fired shots by the river in the community and taken flight in a paddle canoe. The boys used the canoe to head across the river. There has been some speculation that they may have fired shots at other youths who wanted no part of their plans. Police pursued the two boys using a hunter’s canoe with a motor, but were forced to abandon the canoe and flee into the bush when the boys fired at them. The rifle-toting youths then seized the hunter’s canoe and shot holes into the first canoe so that it could not be used to follow them. From there the two boys headed out into the bay.
The SWAT team was called and arrived in Eastmain at 3 a.m., Thursday. One worry was that the young fugitives had acquired more weapons in the second canoe they stole. The hunter’s canoe contained a shotgun with ammunition and a 30-30 rifle. The police performed an aerial search looking for the boys by helicopter.
The boys were finally spotted at 10 a.m. They were taken into custody and transferred to youth protection services. Though nobody was hurt in the incident, and the only apparent damage to property was the canoe that was shot through with holes, the events have left Eastmain in a state of shock. This was the first time anything of this kind had ever happened in the community. The SWAT team claimed it to be the first time they ever had to deal with youth of such a young age in a matter of this scale. Charges won’t be laid due to the ages of the perpetrators and the fact that nobody was hurt, but the kids will be moved to a youth services facility out of Eastmain for evaluation and to allow the community a chance to heal.
Police and public security officers will now be working with school officials to devise a plan to help deal with the situation. Parent involvement will also be sought to help in areas of education and prevention. There has been a palpable sense of shock expressed by residents and there is an acknowledged need for a task force to look into the incident.
As we go to press Eastmain’s Chief, Edward Gilpin, is engaged in a series of long meetings dealing with the shooting incident. Acting as spokesman for the community he provided information to the Nation, but more details are expected to emerge. The Chief urged caution when using and storing firearms, “I’m a strong believer in taking preventative measures. It pays to be cautious, especially where guns are concerned.” Chief Gilpin also wanted to express thanks to “the people from other communities who helped us with our crisis.”