MONTREAL — A Montreal-area high school and members of Quebec's Algerian community are mourning the death of a 15-year-old girl who was killed Sunday in a drive-by shooting in the city's St-Leonard neighbourhood.
The coroner's office on Tuesday identified the victim as Meriem Boundaoui and said she lived in La Prairie, on Montreal's south shore.
A local school board said it was saddened by the loss of a student and offered support to Boundaoui's classmates. "This event touches, to various degrees, all the members of the personnel and the students of Pierre-Bedard school," the board said in a statement.
A group that supports grieving Muslim families in Quebec wrote on Facebook that the death of the young Algerian girl has shocked the entire community. Reached by phone, a representative of the group said it was working to support the family and help with funeral arrangements.
Police said the girl was with another person inside a stopped car Sunday night talking to a group of people outside when a second car drove up and someone opened fire. The girl and a 21-year-old man who was on the sidewalk were hit by bullets, and she was later declared dead.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were no arrests, police said.
Insp. David Bertrand said the city's police force was "very, very troubled" by what he described as an "incredible human tragedy," and he promised every effort was being made to find those responsible.
The drive-by shooting was one of a series of recent crimes that has raised concerns over rising gun violence in Montreal, Bertrand said, adding that police recorded a roughly 10 per cent rise in gun crimes against people between 2019 and 2020.
Bertrand attributes the rise to an increasing "trivialization" of gun use by criminals. "We’re talking about people who are criminalized, who were previously committing crimes but maybe who didn’t use guns before, are now using more guns when committing infractions," he said in a phone interview.
He said the weapons are procured from diverse sources: some imported, some stolen, some legally acquired but later sold illegally. Police have increased patrols in certain neighbourhoods and created units dedicated to fighting gun-related crimes and arms trafficking, he added.
"But we're faced with a phenomenon and the police can't solve this phenomenon alone," Bertrand said, noting that combating gun crime requires co-operation from several partners, including community organizations, schools and law enforcement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 9, 2021.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press