UPDATE - 1:35 p.m.: A 17-year-old male has been charged with four counts of first degree murder, seven counts of attempted murder and one count of unauthorized possession of a firearm. Police say the teen can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Marie Janvier, 21, Adam Wood, 35, Drayden Fontaine, 13, and Dayne Fontaine, 17, were killed in the shooting. Seven others were injured
LA LOCHE, Sask. — As people in a remote Dene community try to fathom any possible motive for a mass shooting that took the lives of four people and wounded several others Friday, witnesses are recalling a terrifying scene of panic as students fled for their lives.
Noel Desjarlais-Thomas was just returning from lunch at the junior and senior high school in La Loche, Sask., when the shooter opened fire. In a flash, his friends were running past him, urging him to get out.
"Run, bro, run!'' the 16-year-old said his friends shouted.
"There's a shotgun! There's a shotgun! They were just yelling to me. And then I was hearing those shots, too, so of course I started running."
The outside of La Loche Community School is shown on Jan. 22, 2016. (Joshua Mercredi/CP)
The teen said it was a blur of partial sights and sounds. He thought he saw one of his friends fall to the ground after being shot, but wasn't sure.
"You know how it is — something happens, you've got to go for your life. I ended up running and I didn't want to look back.''
Geordie Janvier, 16, was walking in the halls when the shots rang out.
"We were going back to gym class, that's when I heard the first shot,'' he explained. "I looked back. He didn't see me, that's why I ran to the gym class, closed the door, and I ran in the dressing room. We stayed there for, like, three hours.''
A student forwarded to The Canadian Press a screenshot of a chilling exchange that had taken place on social media a short time before the shooting between a young man and his friends.
"Just killed 2 ppl,'' wrote the young man. "Bout to shoot ip the school.''
"Why?'' asked a friend. "Why?''
"I ended up running and I didn't want to look back.''
Kevin Janvier, acting mayor of La Loche, was initially told his daughter was one of the victims, according to The Globe and Mail. But, it was another Kevin Janvier's daugher, a 23-year-old teacher's aide, who had been killed.
The acting mayor said the mistaken identity "shattered" his heart.
RCMP confirmed at a brief news conference Friday night that the alleged shooter was in custody and they had investigators at both the school and a second location.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reacts to the shooting in the community school in La Loche, as he attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2016. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)
Speaking from Davos, Switzerland, a solemn Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had been advised of the situation by the commissioner of the RCMP.
"Obviously this is every parent's worst nightmare,'' the prime minister said. "We all grieve with and stand with the community of La Loche and all of Saskatchewan on this terrible, tragic day.''
Bruce Heyman, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, sent a message of condolence and solidarity.
"We have experienced similar tragedies far too often in the United States and understand all too well the heartache and sadness that result from such a horrific event,'' he said.
My deepest condolences on behalf of the American people to all affected by today's shooting in La Loche. https://t.co/HTttg1uQpj— Bruce A. Heyman (@BruceAHeyman) January 23, 2016
Canadian tennis superstar Milos Raonic, competing at the Australian Open, dedicated his game victory to the people of La Loche.
"It was a difficult day back home ... I want to take a moment and give thoughts to that community, the families, the students and the school affected. Today's victory was for that community and a quick recovery. All of Canada and I'm sure the world is behind you.''
Initially, the indication was five people had been killed but RCMP Chief Supt. Maureen Levy ended up revising that down to four at a news conference late Friday, adding that "a number'' of others were injured.
She offered no further details.
"I can't give any information about their sex or their ages. We are in the early onset of the investigation and we want to ensure the integrity of the investigation.''
Chief Superintendent Maureen Levy briefs media at RCMP headquarters in Regina following the fatal school shootings in La Loche, Sask., on Jan. 22, 2016. (Mark Taylor/CP)
Levy said one male was in custody, police had confiscated a firearm and there was no remaining risk to public safety. She said she was not aware of the threatening chat on social media.
The first reports of shots being fired at the high school came in at around 1 p.m. Mounties issued a warning to parents and residents to stay away, then locked down nearby Ducharme Elementary School as a precaution.
School co-ordinator Norma Janvier said she was in her office when she heard gunshots.
"I didn't know what was going on ... I thought the kids were just playing around or something, like a locker slamming and stuff,'' she told The Canadian Press.
She was going to check on the noise, but a teacher closed her office door, so Janvier stayed inside until she was told it was safe to leave.
"All I heard was cops running around in the school.''
Saskatchewan Premier Wall promised that necessary crisis support and counselling services would be provided to the community of 3,000 on the eastern shore of Lac La Loche in the northern boreal forest.
Many residents of the small community hunt and fish to support their families. Desjarlais-Thomas said it is not the kind of place where kids would expect something so terrible.
"What I saw today was something un-ordinary,'' said the teen. "I just thought it was going to be a normal Friday and then, yeah, that happened.''
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