Police have arrested three teenage boys in the shooting death of five-year-old Ethan Yellowbird on the Samson Cree First Nation in Hobbema last July.
The identities of the youths, who are aged 14, 17 and 18, were not made public because of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Two were arrested on Tuesday January 10 and the third was found on January 11, police said. Ethan was shot dead on July 11, 2011, when his father’s house, where he was sleeping, was sprayed with gunfire. He was the grandson of Chief Marvin Yellowbird.
“The ages of the alleged offenders is of course a shock for the public and for police,” RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Taniguchi told the Edmonton Sun on Wednesday. “At the time they were 13, 16 and 17. So it is a shock for us all.”
The three, already known to police and possibly connected to gangs, were charged with manslaughter, intentional discharge of a firearm, and endangering life.
Police lauded community involvement in solving the shooting.
“What stands out to me, is that right from the early days of shock and the grief, this community was asking the RCMP, ‘What can we do to help you solve this crime?’ ” Staff Sgt. Charlie Wood told CBC News. “That is the attitude that has helped us solve this case.”
CBC News said that 14 full-time investigators racked up 14,000 officer hours and interviewed hundreds of witnesses to solve the case.
Still pending is the shooting of 23-year-old Chelsea Yellowbird, Ethan’s aunt, in early September. Her slaying too was thought to be gang-related. She was killed next door to where Ethan lost his life.
The arrests come about a week after Samson Cree First Nation voters approved, 479–370, a new residency bylaw allowing for the eviction of troublemakers on the reserve, as CBC News reported on January 5. It was Ethan’s murder that prompted the move. Alberta’s Ministry of Aboriginal and Northern Development still must review the measure, but it was expected to pass muster. If it goes into effect, it would allow any 25 residents to apply collectively for someone’s removal. The Samson Cree band has 7,000 members, according to CBC News. They would be allowed back if they proved they had turned away from a life of violence.