Police suspect gang hit behind schoolyard murder

A gang hit was likely behind a violent attack at Stuart Wood elementary that left a 23-year-old Vancouver man dead, police said today (Wednesday).

Archie Lepretre and his cousin, also 23, were playing basketball at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday when three men armed with knives and a baseball bat attacked them, RCMP Staff Sgt. Grant Learned told a news conference.

The trio wore gloves and disguised their faces with bandanas, he said.

Learned described the scene as "a violent donnybrook." The attackers fled west along Battle Street. He said a baseball bat was recovered at the scene.

He said Lepretre and his cousin are associates of a known street gang, leading investigators to believe it was a targeted attack.

"These suspects are believed to be from a known, rival gang," said Learned.

All three suspects are First Nations. Two are described as heavy set, between 220 and 230 pounds and between five feet six and five feet eight inches tall. One wore a black hat.

The third has a slim build, is about five feet eight inches tall and weighs 180 to 190 pounds, said Learned.

At Wednesday's news conference, Leprertre's aunt, Wanda Tremblay, begged her nephew's killers to turn themselves in.

"Please come forward and help our family," she sobbed. "It's all we want."

Investigators with the Kamloops detachment's serious crime unit remain at the school, shooting video and combing the outdoor basketball court for clues.

The activity attracted glances from passing motorists who slowed as they drove by.

The corner of the court where the victim was found is decorated with yellow markers. Police shot video of the scene and interviewed custodial staff Tuesday morning.

Wayne Robinson, the school district's custodial manager of operations, said the fact that the crime happened at a school makes it all the more terrible.

"It's upsetting that we've had a murder in town," he said.

Carla Karcha, who walks by the school on her way to and from work, said she noticed the yellow police tape and RCMP cruisers on the way home Tuesday night and felt a chill.

"It's kinda scary," she said.

Police, firefighters and paramedics were dispatched to the downtown school at about 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. Emergency responders rushed to Lepretre, who was lying in a corner of the court.

Crews spent nearly half an hour trying to save the man before loading him in an ambulance. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

Karcha lives nearby and has never felt unsafe, she said. For the most part, the court is used by children who play basketball or just hang out, she said.

Caroline Langford has lived down the block from the school on Battle Street for 20 years. She couldn't believe someone would be so viciously attacked in a schoolyard.

"I find that a disturbing setting," said Langford. "It's disturbing that it's the school yard."

Anyone with information is asked to phone RCMP at 250-828-3000 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.

jhewlett@kamloopsnews.ca

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