'You knew there was something wrong with him'

Editor's note: This story was originally published in the Oct. 26, 2023 edition of the Sault Star.

The person who committed a deadly mass shooting in Sault Ste. Marie Monday evening that claimed the lives of four people, including three children, displayed a pattern of concerning behaviour in the lead-up to these killings, according to an acquaintance of the shooter.

This local resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, briefly chatted with The Sault Star Tuesday morning near a home located in the 200 block of Tancred Street, where the 44-year-old assailant began his shooting rampage that left a 41-year-old dead.

The shooter then travelled to a residence in the 200 block of Second Line East where he shot a 45-year-old and three children between the ages of six and 12.

All three children succumbed to their wounds while the 45-year-old victim was rushed to the hospital with serious injuries.

The shooter was declared dead at the Second Line East residence due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

While the resident is shocked by what transpired in his city Monday night, he told the Star that this behaviour from the shooter didn't come out of nowhere.

Over the last decade, the resident said the shooter would periodically take part in hunting/camping expeditions that involved large groups of people.

During some of these trips, the shooter would make off-colour remarks around the campfire that would veer off into morbid territory.

"He said stuff about shooting someone or something like that, but he would make it into a joke," he said on Tuesday afternoon. "He wasn't all there. You knew there was something wrong with him."

Because of the perpetrator's "off" behaviour, the resident attempted to keep the shooter at a distance in recent years if they were both invited to the same function.

"We weren't buddy-buddy," he said. "Once and while we'd hang out, but I was iffy about him. Even me being around him was kind of scary, especially when I had my kids with me."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service still hadn't released the names of the shooter or his victims.

However, the SSMPS did describe Monday's shootings as the "result of intimate partner violence."

According to Statistics Canada, there were 803 victims of firearm-related intimate partner violence in 2021. This accounts for 10 per cent of the victims of firearm-related violent crime for that specific year.

More than four in five (84 per cent) of the victims in these firearm-related intimate partner violence were women and girls.

Monday's incident in Sault Ste. Marie is one of the deadliest Canadian mass shootings in recent memory at five fatalities (including the perpetrator).

The only other recent mass shootings to exceed that death count took place in Vaughan last December (where six died) and Nova Scotia in April 2020 (where Gabriel Wortman killed 22 people before being killed by police).

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government

Kyle Darbyson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Sault Star