Montreal police announced Monday they made an arrest in the drive-by shooting of a 15-year-old girl whose death last year sparked an outpouring of grief and calls for action to counter gun violence in the city.
Police identified the suspect as Salim Touaibi, 26. He is facing a first-degree murder charge in the death of Meriem Boundaoui, who was fatally shot in the city's St-Leonard neighbourhood in February 2021. Touaibi is also facing four attempted murder charges.
The suspect appeared before a judge on Monday, and the case is due back in court July 22.
Boundaoui was with another person inside a stopped car when a second car drove up and someone opened fire. She and a 21-year-old man who was on the sidewalk were hit by bullets, and she was later declared dead.
Cmdr. Salvatore Serrao of the Montreal police said Monday that the 15-year-old had "nothing to do with the conflict" that erupted and was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Police said the suspect has been detained since March on other charges related to violence and gun possession. The investigation remains open, and other suspects remain at large, Serrao said.
"We know the suspect who was arrested was not alone on the day of the tragedy," he said.
Serrao did not confirm whether the arrested suspect was the one who pulled the trigger, saying only that he participated "actively."
Boundaoui was the first of several young people to die violently in the past year and a half in Montreal, prompting widespread concern and calls to do more to reduce gun violence in the city.
Other victims include Hani Ouahdi, 20, who was gunned down in a car in the city's east-end Anjou district; Thomas Trudel, 16, who was shot in the city's St-Michel borough as he walked home from a park; and 16-year-old Jannai Dopwell-Bailey, who died after being stabbed outside his school in October.
Police declined to release more details on the investigation into Boundaoui's death or explain why it took almost a year and a half to make an arrest.
Serrao said the Montreal police's homicide resolution rate is 92 per cent for crimes committed in 2020, 62 per cent for 2021 and 54 per cent so far this year — proof, he said, that solving crimes takes time.
"Our investigators are determined, they're focused and will never stop," he said. "They will continue until we find the missing pieces, until we can arrest the people and bring them to justice."
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante congratulated the police on Twitter for making the arrest and promised the city would continue to work to tackle violent crime.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 27, 2022.
Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press