More than 300 gather for vigil in Penticton to remember shooting victims

A group of more than 300 people in Penticton held small, battery operated candles to the sky on Wednesday night as they bowed their heads and honoured a minute of silence to remember the four victims of Monday’s shooting rampage.

Those who spoke at the event held at Gyro Park expressed their shock over the deaths of the four people at the hands of a lone gunman.

The community was applauded for coming together during the difficult time to support those who lost loved ones and the grieving community at large.

“We are a community where these things should never happen and it’s never happened before,” Penticton mayor John Vassilaki said.

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Vassilaki said he is proud of Penticton residents in their response to help one another cope after the shootings.

“I can’t say enough about our first responders for the way they acted and the way they did their job that they are trained to do on such a horrific day,” he said.

MLA Dan Ashton offered condolences on behalf of premier John Horgan, Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson and Green party leader Andrew Weaver.

“This is a place where you never hear about these type of things. You hear about them elsewhere in the world,” Ashton said.

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The head of the RCMP detachment in Penticton offered his sympathies to the families of the victims.

“As a community, we all go through this together,” Supt. Ted De Jager said.

“I said on Monday that it was a dark day for Penticton but there’s also brightness in a community that can stand behind the victims and the families of those victims and that can stand behind everybody else doing their job,” he said. “Whether it’s the RCMP having to go from place to place, or whether it’s people that had to find shelter.”

As the community grieves, organizations like the Ooknakane Friendship Centre have been stepping up to offer support.

“There’s a lot of apprehension that came with the incident. There’s a lot of stress that came with the tragic event of Monday,” Ooknakane executive director Matthew Baran said.

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Gathering for the vigil and looking out for each other is a necessary process for healing, he said.

“Our thoughts, our hearts go out to the families impacted by this. But Penticton is also a big family too in a lot of ways,” Baran said. “That’s the neat thing about this small, little city: everybody knows everybody.”

The accused gunman, 68-year-old John Brittain, has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder.

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Darlene Knippelberg, Rudi Winter, Susan and Barry Wonch were the four people who were killed.

They all lived in the Cornwall Drive where Brittain’s ex-wife lives.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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