Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Hundreds of flickering candles lit up the evening as residents of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., gathered for a vigil in memory of the victims of Monday’s shooting rampage, with the father of one of the victims calling for respect for the family of the gunman, as well.

Four people were killed, including three children, and a woman was injured at two different locations in the northern Ontario city before the shooter took his own life in what police have called a case of intimate partner violence.

Friday night saw community members come together, braving the wind and rain to grieve and comfort one another.

Police have not released the identities of those involved, but family members have identified one of the victims as 41-year-old Angie Sweeney, the mother of the three children, and the gunman as Bobbie Hallaert, said to be Sweeney’s partner and the children’s father.

Angie Sweeney’s father, Brian Sweeney, thanked those attending for their support, calling his daughter a beautiful soul with a big heart that ultimately cost her her life.

As he addressed the crowd, he called up Hallaert’s mother as the other half of his family, who suffered the same tragedy as him.

“She lost the same grandchildren I lost, she lost a child as I have lost a child, and yet for some reason people seem to think it’s OK to look down on these people, and that does not sit well for me,” Sweeney said, putting his arm around Marcia Gillespie.

“She deserves the same respect I do because we both feel the same pain. And she’s the most beautiful woman in the world and she’s one of my daughter’s best friends, so it would mean a lot to me that people show respect to that family, because it is not their responsibility for this tragic situation.”

Brian Sweeney, centre, father of shooting victim Angie Sweeney, is seen during candlelight vigil with his son and the mother of the shooter, Marcia Gillespie, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. Earlier this week, a man killed four people — including three children — before turning a gun on himself in the northern Ontario city in what police are calling a case of intimate partner violence. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Robert Davies

Brian Sweeney, right, father of shooting victim Angie Sweeney, speaks on stage during candlelight vigil, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. Earlier this week, a man killed four people — including three children — before turning a gun on himself in the northern Ontario city in what police are calling a case of intimate partner violence. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Robert DaviesHe urged those in attendance to join him in a movement to end this kind of violence, saying he wants to speak with Ontario Premier Doug Ford about the creation of a new law to prevent further tragedy.

Police have said Hallaert was involved in intimate partner investigations in the past, and documents obtained by The Canadian Press show Hallaert was charged in December 2019 with assaulting a police officer in Sault Ste. Marie.

Sweeney said details on what happened leading up to Monday’s shootings still need to be worked out. But he needs to do something to make sure no other family suffers the same way.

“And that’s what we are doing, that’s what we’re going to do. Because we are determined people, and we are strong fighters.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2023.

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