Opinion: Innocence lost as bystanders caught in strangers' violence

Jose Neto sits with his wife Roberta Ribeiro while speaking to media in Calgary, Alta., in this May...

Jose Neto sits with his wife Roberta Ribeiro while speaking to media in Calgary, Alta., in this May 18, 2011 file photo. (LYLE ASPINALL/QMI Agency)

Michael Platt, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

CALGARY -- Police call her an innocent bystander, and friends describe her as a “good girl” who was just waiting for a ride to arrive.

The wrong place at the wrong time, is how one cousin put it via Twitter, but even that suggests Calgary’s latest murder victim had some role to play in her sudden, senseless death on a downtown sidewalk.

If police are right, the young woman did nothing wrong at all, and what happened was totally unpredictable and cruelly unfair.

Innocent bystanders are people with every expectation of safety, before they’re randomly caught in a stranger’s violence — and Calgary is just fortunate that we can still count such tragedies on a single hand.

Jose Neto is one.

He says Saturday’s early morning shooting, which resulted in the death of a mid-20s woman near a bar on 11 Ave. and 1 St. S.W., leaves him chilled.

“When I heard she was killed, I can only think how fortunate I am, that I’m alive and had an opportunity to keep going,” said Neto.

It’s been six years since a stray bullet hit Neto in the face, as he and his girlfriend sat on a bench downtown beside a sidewalk used by thousands of Calgarians day and night.

A squabble between two druggies in a park nearly 50 metres away suddenly erupted in gunfire, but the buyer’s bullet missed the dealer and ended up blinding Neto, a 24-year-old Brazilian student who’d come to Calgary expecting nothing but peace and calm.

Neto says he remembers listening as police and EMS crews worked on him, and someone asking if he could see the bright light in his face — Neto recalls the panic of realizing he couldn’t.

“There was nothing, and I just thought ‘oh crap, no,’” he said. But then he overheard an officer saying Neto was actually very lucky, despite the bullet lodged in his right orbital area.

“I heard the cops saying that I was actually fortunate, because if the gun had been a bit more powerful, the result would have been catastrophic,” said Neto.

“I would have been killed.”


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