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He was fond of basketball, dancing, sport and art. He loved to make people laugh. He didn't mind apologizing when he made mistakes.

He was a little boy, a Grade 4 student at nearby Sir Winston Churchill Public School in the hardscrabble, working-class Brampton, Ont., neighbourhood where he lived and died, killed in his own home.

Even on the heels of other Toronto-area homicides in the past year in which young people were slain, the killing of Kesean Williams, in what police say was a targeted shooting, seems to be in a horrifying category all its own.

Toronto this past summer saw several teenagers killed or wounded by guns. Less than a week ago, 15-year-old Tyson Bailey was shot dead in a Regent Park stairwell.

Kesean was just nine.

He lived in a townhouse with his 15-year-old brother Kajan and their mother, Tanya. They had relocated from Hamilton less than five months earlier, and moved into their modest brick-and-shingle rented home on Ardglen Drive just this month.

He was mortally wounded on Wednesday night when a single bullet pierced the living room window, striking him in the back of the head as he watched television. He died a few hours later in Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

"Based on the physical evidence we have, we are satisfied that the residence was targeted," said Supt. George Koekkoek, who heads the Peel police homicide squad.

"We're just not sure – and we're working to determine – who the actual person or persons was that the shooter was targeting."

Perhaps that gunman was trying to kill a former resident of the townhouse end unit where the family lived. Conceivably, Kajan was the quarry.

But Supt. Koekkoek said it seemed "unfathomable" that Kesean was supposed to die.

His mother was not home when he was shot, although his brother was. Television footage from Wednesday night showed Tanya Williams frantically leaping across the yellow police tape before collapsing and being taken to Sick Kids, where Kesean was fighting for his life.

On Twitter, Kesean's brother grieved in an outpouring of pain-laced posts.

" Why my brother why him god what he do wrong," Kajan wrote.

"Kesean was all about love and jokes man .. Why my bro :'(," he later added.

His last tweet, shortly after midnight on Friday morning, said: " Been up since 11 am Wednesday I cannot sleep."

Much of Brampton, too, was in mourning as word spread on a bitterly cold Thursday morning.

At Sir Winston Churchill, grief counsellors and police officers were on hand all day, the school's flag lowered to half-mast as dozens of uniformed officers canvassed the area and sniffer dogs strained at their leashes.

In the school foyer was a memorial with flowers, a teddy bear and a photo of Kesean, wearing a green-and-white striped polo shirt and a shy smile. On the dozens of handmade cards and drawings, several children wrote: "God loves you." Another read, "Kesean we will miss u!!" a frowny face beneath the exclamation marks.

"He'd only been at the school since September, but during this time there, he formed many friendships. He was a well-liked student, so his death is deeply felt by everyone in the building," said Carla Pereira of the Peel District School Board.

On Thursday, his classmates crafted a poem affectionately recounting Kesean's sarcastic sense of humour and his penchant for doing "the Kesean dance."

"Kesean, we pray you are happy in heaven playing your favourite video games and looking down at the world and watching us," it said. "May you rest in peace."

And accompanying the sadness was a wave of concern.

Maygen Lavoie, 13, met Kesean through the school's daily breakfast program. She described his death as "terrifying."

"There's been other things, like somebody's pulled out a knife on somebody," she said. "But nothing major, major like a shot through the window."

Her mother, Tera Marshall, who helped supervise the program, concurred.

"My first thought is to pack up and move," said Ms. Marshall, a Brampton resident of 10 years.

"You have your issues everywhere, right? But nothing quite this close."

Maygen's memory of Kesean was vivid.

"He was small, short, cute, I believe his favourite colour was green. He was quite talkative. He was very polite. He liked to play soccer at recess and sometimes he'd come and play basketball with the older kids."

Sandra Haggen, 18, who lives in the same townhouse complex as Kesean's family, voiced surprise that she didn't hear any commotion Wednesday night. Only when her 12-year-old sister's friends texted did the family realized what had happened.

"It really scared the hell out of her," Ms. Haggen said of her younger sister. "She's so distraught she has to stay home … She seemed kind of panicked last night having to live in this neighbourhood now."

Ms. Haggen said Sir Winston Churchill Public School is a normal school that has no particular history of violence. Nonetheless, the neighbourhood has a reputation for being tough. George Huszar has lived there only a few months, but he knew before arriving that it "wasn't the nicest area."

He also wondered why Kesean was still up at 10:30 p.m., when the lone bullet smashed the glass.

Church outreach worker Linda Masecar, however, said the neighbourhood is no worse than many others.

"All areas are rough nowadays. There are other areas of Brampton that are just as bad," she said.

Family friends, parents of classmates and strangers, meanwhile, posted condolences for Kesean on a Facebook page.

"You were such a special lil boy always touching people's hearts wherever you went," one friend wrote. "Still can't believe you are gone. Look down on Mommy and Kajan and let them know you reached home safe."

"My daughter called me this morning crying because her classmate was killed," Rachelle Reid wrote. Another woman posted that she is a close friend of Kesean's mother and that the family appreciates the sympathy.

"This is disgusting and should have never happened," she wrote. "But I thank you all and I know she would appreciate to know that she had this much support from everyone and people she doesn't know."

With reports from Jill Mahoney and Jennifer MacMillan