The Winnipeg mother who lost her 12-year-old son in a stabbing police call “exceptionally troubling” says she’s trying to hold it together for the rest of her children.
Joni Gabriel is mourning the loss of Sanchez Boulanger, who was killed in a violent altercation Friday night in north-central Winnipeg.
“I’m trying to be strong for my kids, but at the same time, I just feel like I don’t even want to be here anymore, you know what I mean? I feel like it should have been me,” Gabriel said.
“But I know I have to be strong for my kids so I’m trying to do that.”
Police have offered sparse information so far, but some details of the case are troubling, spokesperson Const. Jay Murray said on Saturday, adding he was struggling to find the words for what transpired.
He said two groups got into an altercation on Burrows Avenue, near Main Street, on Friday night, where the boy was stabbed.
An off-duty nurse who police described as a Good Samaritan helped officers care for the boy until an ambulance arrived, around 7:20 p.m. The boy was rushed to hospital, where he died.
It is not known whether the groups knew each other, but it’s believed the incident isn’t gang-related.
Murray said some details may not be made public until charges are laid — or until the case makes its way through the court system.
Missing the conversations at breakfast
The victim was a caring child with a kind heart, his mother said.
“He was a good boy, and I just feel like he should have never died that young, for a 12-year-old.”
She’ll miss their talks in the morning, while Gabriel was whipping up his breakfast.
“He always wanted to make them spicy noodles,” she said, adding her son stayed away from greasy foods whenever he could.
More recently, those talks weren’t happening as recently as Boulanger was spending more time with friends. On Friday, in what would be his last conversation with his mother, he wouldn’t say where he and his girlfriend were going. They ended up at the violent altercation where Boulanger was stabbed.
“I don’t want to say I was always on his back, but I always had talks with him about not hanging around certain kids, don’t trust these people. Why are you following those boys around? And he says he’s not following them,” Gabriel said.
“I was worried all the time for him … because people were bullying him online on Instagram and Facebook and all that.”
Gabriel said it was late in the evening when she got a call from the hospital. When she arrived, she was told her son was killed in a stabbing.
She wants justice for her boy. Police say they’re continuing to investigate and no arrests have been announced.
Boulanger was the second oldest of six children. A Grade 7 student at Niji Makhwa School, he liked listening to rap artists like Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., talking with his friends online and playing the Fortnite video game, his mom said.
He was always after his mom to buy him a gift card for the game.
“Just the other day, he came running out … he yelled out, ‘Buy me a $25 gift card,'” she said.
The homicide is the latest tragedy for the family. Gabriel’s brother, 38-year-old John Gabriel, was assaulted in the early morning hours of Mar. 16, 2019, and died of his injuries. A second-degree murder charge has been laid in his death.
“I’m still mourning over that. It’s still hard and there’s still no justice for him.”
She said the killing has scared her family. One of her younger sons pleads with her to stay inside because of his fears of what could happen.
She’s responded to her family’s unease by plastering a sheet of paper on her door that declares, “No visitors allowed,” and in smaller print, “Stop the violence.” She doesn’t want to deal with anything outside her doors.
“As of now, I don’t know, I’m not trusting anybody,” she said.
On Sunday afternoon, about 25 people visited a makeshift roadside memorial to pay tribute, where teddy bears and flowers were left on a tree not far from where the stabbing occurred. There was also traditional Indigenous drumming and song.
The boy’s death marks Winnipeg’s 18th homicide of 2021. It’s also the 11th in just over a month.
“I think the public — friends, family — are going to be looking to understand why something like this would happen, especially to a 12-year-old,” Murray said on Saturday.
Anyone with information about the stabbing is asked to call investigators at 204-986-6508 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 204-786-8477.
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