For about 15 minutes, the organizer of a social event for the Jamaican community lay on his belly in the kitchen of a south Edmonton hall early Sunday as gunshots were fired repeatedly outside the building.
“I heard one explosion. When I heard the explosion, I thought it was like a balloon bursting, stuff like that,” said the man. CBC has agreed to withhold the man’s name because he is concerned for his safety.
“But then after that explosion, I heard numerous explosions afterwards so then I realized it was not a balloon, it was gunshots firing.”
The man said he was too terrified to count the number of shots but estimated there were more than 20.
“They kept firing, they kept firing, they kept firing. It was crazy out there,” he said.
One man died and six others were injured in the incident that happened at about 4 a.m. Sunday at the Duggan community hall, located near 37th Avenue and 106th Street.
The dead man, who police say was in his 20s, was found inside the hall after police arrived at around 4 a.m. One man was seriously hurt while another five received non-life threatening injuries.
On Monday, plastic drink cups and paper cards promoting upcoming parties littered the ground outside the hall.
The event organizer said different promoters within the Jamaican community regularly organize social events — “a family fun day, social day, barbecue,” he said. “Come out and have fun.”
He said about 100 people had been invited but estimated almost double that number showed up.
The organizer said most of the original invitees had been contacted and none are believed to be among the dead or injured.
“We did not know at what point these guys left or what time the gunshot stop firing, or whatever, because we were so scared, we didn’t want to open the door,” he said.
There are 123 community league halls in Edmonton that are available for the public to rent, according to the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL).
In a statement released Monday, EFCL executive director Laura Cunningham-Shpeley said in a statement that there have been other violent incidents at community halls in recent years.
“Sadly, we’ve experienced this before, most recently with incidents at or near league halls in 2018. That year and into 2019, the EFCL worked to deliver resources to leagues, including workshops in partnership with the Edmonton Police Service, community groups and insurance providers,” the statement said.
The Duggan community hall has numerous security cameras mounted outside.
The weekend incident is a prompt for the resumption of helping community leagues manage rentals while ensuring public safety, added the EFCL statement.
“The events of this weekend highlight the need for us to resume this difficult work, which along with hall rentals, was put on pause during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the statement.
“This has been a known challenge for many years.”
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