The man believed to have killed four people, including three children, in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., in what police described as a case of intimate-partner violence had faced a court order to stay away from guns and alcohol after pleading guilty to assaulting a police officer two years ago.
Court records show that 44-year-old Bobbie Hallaert pleaded guilty two years ago to assaulting a Sault Ste. Marie police officer. During his December, 2021, hearing for that crime, he received a conditional sentence for which he agreed to a seek counselling for alcohol abuse. He also agreed then to a firearms prohibition, which came into force at the end of 2021 and ended 12 months later.
A law enforcement source told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Hallaert had been identified as the shooter. Mr. Hallaert killed himself after the homicides. The Globe is not naming the source, who was not authorized to disclose the assailant’s identity.
The attacks happened on Monday night in the community of about 77,000 people along the Canada-U.S. border in Northern Ontario. Police have said the gunman went to a house and killed a 41-year-old woman, who family members told The Canadian Press was Angie Sweeney.
He then went to a second house and killed three children – six, seven and 12 years old – and shot another woman, who survived, before killing himself. Police have not confirmed the names of the victims or described any of their relationships to their attacker, but have said he was involved in previous domestic violence incidents, without elaborating.
Mr. Hallaert is co-listed as a property owner of the house that was the scene of the second shooting. A 45-year-old woman was shot at that address but survived the attack.
Police have said they recovered a rifle and handgun from the scene, but that they do not yet know if these weapons were legally acquired or wielded.
By Thursday, visitors had posted a yellow-and-black bristle board sign at Ms. Sweeney’s house describing her as “mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend.”
Ginger Gamble, who lives across the street from Ms. Sweeney’s home, said the woman was a “beautiful person” and identified Mr. Hallaert as her romantic partner. A vigil for all of the victims is scheduled for Friday evening in Sault Ste. Marie.
Criminal record searches at the Sault Ste. Marie courthouse indicate that Mr. Hallaert faced one set of recent charges there.
The case in which he was charged with assaulting and resisting a peace officer relates to an event that occurred in late 2019. The violence involved Mr. Hallaert breaking an officer’s eyeglasses, but no additional details about the altercation were made available by the courts.
Police said this week that they “can confirm the offender has been involved in intimate-partner investigations” in the past, including for one incident “in the days previous” to the massacre. Yet none of these events appear to have given rise to criminal charges or a renewed weapons ban against Mr. Hallaert.
Mr. Hallaert had once listed himself on social media as an “operating engineer” at White River Forest Products. Melissa Jones, head of human resources for the company, confirmed he did briefly work there as a fourth-class power engineer several years ago.
A spokeswoman for Algoma Steel would not confirm whether Mr. Hallaert had more recently worked at the local steel plant. “On behalf of Algoma Steel, we extend our condolences to those impacted by Monday evening’s unfathomable violence and tragic loss,” said spokeswoman Laura Devoni in a statement.
Mr. Hallaert was also identified as the man behind the shootings by one of his relatives. “It’s just tragic, I hope he rots in hell,” Dirk Hallaert told The Canadian Press in an interview.
Sault Ste. Marie Police Chief Hugh Stevenson said this week that intimate-partner violence was an epidemic and he said there should be a review of what happened in his community.
The pervasiveness of intimate-partner violence in Canada is well-documented. On average, a woman is killed by an intimate partner every six days. With attempted murders included, the figure becomes one almost every other day.
Last summer, a jury at an inquest into a triple femicide in rural Ontario made a series of recommendations intended to prevent intimate-partner violence. The first of those was that the province declare such violence an epidemic, though the province rejected that recommendation.
With reports from The Canadian Press, Stephanie Chambers, Mike Hager, Fred Lum