A 19-year-old woman who was shot and killed while waiting in a line at a Mississauga nightclub was an innocent bystander, police say, as officers appeal for information in the homicide.
Peel Regional Police said that on Dec. 31, 2023, police responded to calls of shots being fired at a nightclub around 1:30 a.m. in the area of Eglinton Avenue East and Dixie Road.
Once on scene, first responders located the victim — identified as Raneilia Richards of North York — suffering from severe injuries.
Despite providing lifesaving measures, she was pronounced dead at the scene.
“Raneilia was in attendance at this club, waiting outside in the line to enter the premises with her friends when her life was tragically taken by gunfire,” Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said at a press conference Tuesday morning.
“Raneilia was doing nothing more that night than being with her friends intending to enjoy the evening when her life was tragically taken away. She was not the intended target and was absolutely an innocent victim.
“The suspects in this incident have shown a complete, absolute disregard for the safety of anyone in a public place.“
Multiple shots were fired in the direction of people standing in front of the nightclub, Duraiappah said.
There were around 100 people standing in the line, he said, and said it’s “a miracle” that no one else was injured or killed.
Richards was simply “at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Duraiappah said.
Acting Insp. Phil King from Peel police’s homicide and missing persons bureau said Richards was standing in the line with her sister and boyfriend when she was killed.
He reiterated that there is nothing to suggest that she was “anything but an innocent victim of gun violence.”
Investigators are now looking to locate and speak to the driver and occupants of a light-coloured SUV that was seen leaving the area, King said.
A police news release added that the car was an older-model, grey SUV.
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King said he wouldn’t use the term “drive-by shooting” in this case, but said the shots were likely fired from a vehicle.
He also appealed to the public for any information or video footage that could assist in the investigation.
“Time is of the essence not only for investigators, but for the family and friends of this young woman,” King said.
“They deserve answers for what has happened to Raneilia.”
While police said she was an innocent victim, it’s not clear if someone else there was the intended target, or what led up to the shooting.
“We are exploring every other reason that the shooting would have occurred,” King said.
King said a scheduled event was taking place at the club that tickets had been sold for, and there were several hundred people inside at the time, in addition to the around 100 outside.
The shooting happened at Jungle Event Space, police said, which was previously called the “HER Adult Entertainment Club” and in 2022 was the subject of a public safety advisory from Peel police, warning of “heightened risks” associated with the facility.
At the time in August 2022, police said there had been numerous incidents reported at the club, including shootings, firearms being seized, and disorderly behaviour.
“We worked very hard with the City of Mississauga and our stakeholders to get the premises shut down,” Duraiappah said.
“We did feel it important at a previous time to warn people about the concerns that we had in the midst of trying to close it. It was successfully closed, but then, months later, reopened as the current premises.”
Duraiappah said the owners of Jungle Event Space have advised that they have now voluntarily closed their facility.
He said there are a number of factors that could lead to violence at clubs in general, such as the volume of people, the type of facility it is, and how it’s operated.
“None of that was necessarily all point to why there would be a shooting in the area — they’re not the conclusive reasons why,” he said.
Although Richards was an innocent victim, there is no reason to believe that there is an ongoing risk to public safety, police said.
Duraiappah said the club’s closure diminishes one concern, given that it was a “vulnerable location.”
King said the shooting was “an incident that was only applied to that evening.”
Peel police Deputy Chief Marc Andrews said there are concerns that the facility could open again under a different name.
“But we are working with our partners at the city and with the Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) to ensure that we have restrictions placed around the premises that mitigate that possibility of ongoing violence,” Andrews said.
Andrews said when the club was called “HER,” officials were able to get the location shut down and also restrictions were placed on the facility, working with the AGCO.
“Those restrictions were in place at this time and they seemed to be working,” Andrews said.
“But you can’t account for behavior that is sort of completely off the normal path. So the club, as it is now … intends to be shut down.”
If there is an application to reopen, Andrews said police will work with the city to ensure that restrictions are again placed on the club.
“Raneilia was a young woman with a bright future,” Duraiappah said.
“She was a talented athlete and a friend to many. And just like many young people and young adults, she had dreams and goals and aspirations which she wanted to accomplish. In fact, I’m told that yesterday would have been her first day at college, as she planned a career in the travel and aviation industry.”
Anyone with information on her killing was asked to contact Peel homicide detectives at 905-453-2121 ext. 3205 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-8477.
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