When Cheryl Campbell heard someone had been shot and killed in Hamilton Wednesday, her heart suddenly sank.
She knew her son Michael had plans to drive down from Brampton to visit a bar here and for some reason she had a bad feeling.
Campbell started frantically calling hospitals and emergency officials trying to find out what happened. Eventually she reached police. They told her Michael was dead.
“It’s hard to think that my son is gone,” she said, through tears. “You’re in denial.”
As she spoke about her son, Campbell constantly slipped between the present and past tense, struggling to come to grips with the fact he’s dead.
“Michael has children. Michael had a future and when you’re looking at this you have a lot of questions about what happened and why?”
He didn’t deserve to die in the street like a dog.– Cheryl Campbell, Michael’s mother
Hamilton police are working to answer those questions.
Staff Sgt. Dave Oleniuk said it seems as though a group of about half dozen people were just “shooting the breeze” on the sidewalk across from Sheila’s Place, a bar on King Street East, around 1:30 a.m. when the shooting started.
Michael Campbell, 34, was killed.
Two men and a woman, all of whom are in their 20s or 30s also suffered gunshot wounds, but are expected to survive.
No weapon has been recovered and police haven’t released a description of any suspects.
But Oleniuk said police believe the shooting wasn’t random. They just don’t know if Michael was the intended target or a tragic casualty. His past, however, does include several criminal charges, court records show.
Despite that history, Michael’s mother says she can’t understand why someone would want to kill her son.
“Michael is not the kind of person who would be targeted by anybody,” she explained. “He loved restaurants, he loved food, so I can understand him being out there at a bar or outside a restaurant I could understand all that.”
“What I can’t understand is why he was shot.”
Past contact with police
A Toronto police media release from 2014 reveals he was arrested as part of a human trafficking and juvenile prostitution investigation.
Two years later he pleaded guilty in Superior Court to exercising control over a teenaged prostitute and possessing an unloaded, prohibited firearm, along with ammunition, according to a 2016 court file.
A ‘huge tragedy’
Campbell says her son’s past doesn’t provide a complete picture of who he was. She claims Michael was the type of person who ran away from fights and wasn’t one cause trouble.
“His love of his friends led him to die,” she added. “He didn’t deserve to die in the street like a dog.”
Michael’s death marks the latest killing in what has been a violent summer with shootings across the Greater Toronto Area.
Campbell said the region has seen enough bloodshed. Now something needs to change.
“The killing that’s happening around the greater GTA needs to stop. It’s a waste of good life. It’s a huge tragedy.”