Residents of the northern Ontario city of Sault Ste. Marie were in shock Tuesday after what the mayor called an "inexplicable" outburst of violence that left five people – including three children and a shooter – dead and police investigating a case of intimate partner violence.
Police said a shooter went to two homes on Monday night, gunning down multiple victims, before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot.
The city's mayor, Matthew Shoemaker, said Sault Ste. Marie was "trying to make sense of something that there is no making sense of."
"It is inexplicable that anybody could do this to loved ones," he told The Canadian Press in a phone interview. "It is much more difficult to process and comprehend when it involves children."
Police Chief Hugh Stevenson called what happened a "tragic and unnecessary loss of life."
"The grief the families, friends and loved ones of the victims are facing is unimaginable," he wrote in a statement. "As our community grieves this tragedy, I urge everyone to please watch out for each other."
Police said the shootings were not random acts of violence and there was no ongoing risk to public safety. They also said they would not be releasing the names of the victims or the accused because it was an intimate partner violence case.
Police were alerted to the shootings late Monday night, they said.
Officers first discovered the body of a 41-year-old, dead from a gunshot wound, around 10:20 p.m. after someone called to report a break-and-enter at a home, police said.
The shooter appeared to have fled and about 10 minutes later, police received another call for someone with a weapon at a home about three kilometres north from the previous residence.
Police said they found three children – aged six, seven and 12 – shot dead in that second home and a 45-year-old who was injured with a gunshot wound.
They said officers also found the 44-year-old shooter, who appeared to have died after a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Tyson Jikinosky, who works at an auto repair shop in the neighbourhood, said there was still a visible police presence in the area on Tuesday morning.
He said he learned of what happened by reading the news and that it came as a shock.
"It's a really, really, really ugly, ugly scenario," he said. "I live a few blocks away. It's a pretty small town, so we're all pretty close."
The Algoma District School Board said it was mourning the loss of three students in Sault Ste. Marie.
"The entire Algoma District School Board community is heartbroken," the board's director of education, Lucia Reece, wrote in a statement.
"Counsellors and support staff have been put in place at schools impacted by this tragedy ... Our thoughts and prayers are with all who have been affected."
Shoemaker, the mayor, voiced hope that the community would support those suffering in the aftermath of the tragedy, especially relatives of the victims.
"We want the family of the victims to know that they can lean on their neighbours, they can lean on their community members," he said.
"I trust there will be results from this investigation that will likely spur change in our community and hopefully beyond," the mayor said.
Premier Doug Ford said the news out of Sault Ste. Marie was "gut-wrenching."
"This senseless loss of life has left family, friends and an entire community grieving,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. "All of Ontario mourns this tragedy.”
Police spokesman Lincoln Louttit said investigators had learned more about the shooter through witnesses who came forward.
"It's crucial to the community that we let them know that this tragic event had taken place. But we also need to make sure that the investigation can continue and as well protect other victims that are involved," Louttit said.
"We're not going to be providing any other details with the investigation at this point."
Officers were at both homes on Tuesday, police said, and the investigation continues.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2023.
Fakiha Baig, The Canadian Press