WARNING: This story contains details of intimate partner violence.
One of the victims of a murder-suicide in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., that left five people, including three children, dead is being remembered as a generous person who loved life.
Family have identified the 44-year-old gunman in the shootings at two different homes Monday night as Bobbie Hallaert.
Police have called the killings a case of intimate partner violence, but haven’t given details of the victims or the shooter.
The 41-year-old woman killed at the first home has been identified by the family as Angie Sweeney.
Her father, Brian Sweeney, wrote several posts on Facebook expressing his grief and mourning the loss of his “baby girl.”
“I will forever keep you in what is left of this MANs Heart,” his post says.
In another post, he asked friends to share photographs of his daughter. “She LOVED LIFE and knew how to LIVE it,” he wrote.
According to documents obtained by The Canadian Press, Hallaert was charged with assault of a police officer in 2019. Police also said the gunman was involved in intimate partner investigations in the past.
In an interview with CP, Hallaert’s uncle, Dirk Hallert, said the family is struggling to understand what happened on Monday night.
“It’s just tragic. I hope he rots in hell,” Dirk said.
Sweeney’s neighbours told CBC News they had observed police at the home over the weekend. Police confirmed Wednesday they had been called to one of the residences for a domestic violence-related call.
One neighbour who did not want to be identified, because she was traumatized by the shootings and didn’t feel safe to share her name, recalled an incident in September in which she overhead Hallaert berate two children who sometimes lived in the home with what she described as vile language.
She noted they appeared to be terrified of him. She said he was watching them from a remote location using a camera installed in the house and was furious because they were outside when he told them to stay in the house.
The neighbour described Sweeney as a lovely and generous person who offered to help her out if she ever needed anything.
Two small bouquets of pink carnations had been put up on a utility pole outside the home where Sweeney was shot. Yellow police tape remained up outside the house on Thursday and several police cars were seen outside.
Past assault against a police officer
The documents show that in the case of the officer assault charge, Bobbie Hallaert received a conditional discharge and was ordered for 12 months to keep the peace, not possess any weapons, as well as participate in alcohol abuse counselling, among other conditions.
On Monday night, the gunman first broke into a home and killed a 41-year-old woman before heading to a second home and killing children aged six, seven and 12, and shooting another woman, 45, who survived, police have said.
The gunman was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
I think all governments have to look at this situation and, in light of what’s happened here, treat it a little more seriously.– Sault Ste. Marie police Chief Hugh Stevenson
Sault Ste. Marie police Chief Hugh Stevenson has said police got a domestic violence call from one of the two homes where the killings took place a day before the shootings.
Officers found two guns — a long gun and a handgun — at the home where the three children were found dead, police said.
On Wednesday, Stevenson said he would welcome an inquest into the issue of intimate partner violence.
“I think all governments have to look at this situation and, in light of what’s happened here, treat it a little more seriously. And what that looks like will come out of people a lot smarter than me.”
Community vigil planned
The shootings have devastated the city of about 73,000.
A spokesperson for Algoma Steel, a large employer in the area, would not confirm if Hallaert worked at the local steel plant, but said counselling support was being provided to employees and their families.
“On behalf of Algoma Steel, we extend our condolences to those impacted by Monday evening’s unfathomable violence and tragic loss,” Laura Devoni, director of corporate affairs, wrote in a statement.
“This is a very difficult time for all in the Soo. We have counselling support available for our employees and their families.”
Ross Romano, member of provincial parliament for the area, said the community was dealing with an “unimaginable” tragedy.
“There are no words to describe the incredible sense of sorrow and pain felt right now,” he wrote in a statement.
“It is heartwrenching to process these incomprehensible acts of violence. As a community, we weep.”
A community candlelight vigil is planned for Friday evening.
Support is available for anyone affected by family or intimate partner violence through crisis lines and local support services. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for safety or that of others around you, please call 911.
For help locally, Women In Crisis (Algoma) Inc., based in Sault Ste. Marie, can be reached toll free at 1-877-759-1230.