Two young women brought their own candles to the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and the Ooknakane Friendship Centre’s candle light vigil in Gyro Park on April 17. The evening was meant to show support for the family and friends of the April 15 shooting victims. (Jordyn Thomson - Western News)

South Okanagan city unites for candlelight vigil honouring shooting victims

Hundreds gathered to support the grieving family & friends of the victims from the April 15 shooting

Hundreds of people gathered in Penticton’s Gyro Park for a candlelight vigil to remember four people who were shot and killed earlier this week and to offer support to one another.

Kim Kirkham, executive director of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce, said the city is having trouble coming to terms with the violence.

“Any store I walk into — restaurants, coffee shops — people are talking about it. It’s affected everyone,” she told Canadian Press.

The Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce hosted the vigil in partnership with the Ooknakane Friendship Centre. Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki, Penticton MLA Dan Ashton as well as Penticton RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager all addressed the attendees and expressed their deepest condolences, as well as their pride for the community’s response to the tragedy.

READ ALSO: Alleged Penticton gunman seen ‘angrily yelling’ before opening fire, witness says

“What I hear the most (from my constituents) is that we should continue to be bound together like we were on Monday. I’ve never been as proud of Penticton as I was on Monday. The people came together to protect each other and make sure everyone was safe,” said Vassilaki. “I just hope this will continue in the future, not just in the near future but for a long, long time to come. So that we can go forward and what happened on Monday.”

Two women share a heartfelt embrace at the candle light vigil in Penticton’s Gyro Park on April 17 for the shooting victims from Monday’s attack. The vigil was hosted by the Penticton & Wine Country Chamber of Commerce and the Ooknakane Friendship Centre. (Jordyn Thomson – Western News)

In the wake of the incident, many members of the community came together to praise the efforts of the city’s first responders in handling the situation so effectively. Officers that were posted to secure the crime scenes in the days following were brought coffee and food, while others took to social media to offer their gratitude to the RCMP and other first responders, coining the hashtag #PentictonStrong.

Matthew Baran, executive director of the Ooknakane Friendship Centre said it’s not uncommon for the community to rally behind others in times of tragedy.

“We’re a strong community and this is part of the process of how we will rise up from this,” he told Canadian Press.

READ ALSO: 4 victims killed in Penticton shooting spree remembered at vigil

Vassilaki praised the RCMP and their handling of the tragic events on April 15.

“As the Penticton police, this is what we train for is if something like this were to happen. And if it were to happen again, we expect the same co-operation and understanding from the city,” said De Jager. “And the people of Penticton were excellent when it came to what we asked them to do. There was another incident in the afternoon that turned out to be completely unrelated and it just continued that need to ensure that we had access to the streets and were able to move around the city very quickly.

Megan Nixon and her son, Brayden Steves, 5, attended the candle light vigil in Penticton’s Gyro Park to honour the victims of the April 15 shooting.(Jordyn Thomson – Western News)

“Just the outpouring of support, when those incidents are actually happenning, and also afterwards. Bringing coffee to officers on scene, hugging witnesses and offering to take care of people and family members. That’s the true measure of our community, that’s what we appreciated and that’s why we’re here tonight.”

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.

Jordyn Thomson | Reporter
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