The distraught family of a Meadow Lake, Sask., teen shot dead on Monday morning says he went from a happy teen to a "frightened boy" who was afraid to leave the house in the months before he was killed.
Kegan McCallum, 17, died in hospital from gunshot wounds after he was shot at a friend's house at about 10:30 a.m. CST Monday in the Saskatchewan city, 250 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.
Family members huddled with bowed heads as they talked to reporters on Tuesday, explaining how they found out from some children on the street that McCallum had died.
"They were notified at around 11:30 by some kids off the street that they'd lost their grandson and their son," said McCallum's great-aunt Charlene Martin.
"No RCMP, nobody ever came to the house and notified them."
RCMP Staff Sgt. Rob Embree said police did notify family members shortly after the shooting.
"In a small community news can travel very quickly," he said, adding that officers may not have notified the family about the shooting "as quickly as other sources."
"One of our priorities is to notify the family as quickly as possible and I can confirm RCMP did speak to family shortly after the incident."
He said community safety is a priority when the suspect is still at large.
Overdose changed McCallum, says family
Family members in Meadow Lake said McCallum was a happy teenager who deeply loved and cared for his family.
But Martin said his happy demeanour changed in July, when there was an incident with a group of people involving some bad drugs. McCallum overdosed and had to be sent to Saskatoon, she said.
"He loved everyone. He was happy, but after he overdosed the first time, he was a scared boy, a very scared boy," Martin said.
"He just wouldn't go anywhere, nowhere, and he had threatening phone calls."
Martin said that after the overdose, McCallum would only leave home to visit one friend, and that family members would always drive him to the house and pick him up to bring him home.
She said the night before he died, McCallum had called to say he wasn't coming home until the next day.
"That's the only night that he never asked for a ride home," said Martin.
"As far as [the family] knew he was going to stay there, that's the last we heard from him. We didn't think he was coming home."
'I hope they can catch this person'
Martin explained the family's heartbreak when they tried to visit him at the hospital, saying they were not allowed to see his body and that it was being sent to Saskatoon.
McCallum's mother, Leianne Barthel, was comforted by his sister Natasha McCallum, as she fought back tears at a home in Meadow Lake.
"I just hope something can be done. I hope they can catch this person," said Barthel.
"My boy was innocent. I just miss him so much."
Police are still looking for the suspect in the shooting, and he is considered armed and dangerous.
Earlier on Monday, the RCMP described the suspect as being about five feet eight inches tall and 102 pounds.
He was last seen wearing a grey Burton brand hat, glasses, a red hoodie with black writing, and black Adidas track pants.
RCMP ask the public not to approach this male, and to report any information regarding this incident to police.
Gun death was a 'major surprise'
McCallum's cousin Leah Cardinal said her family is trying to piece together what happened, but it's difficult to wade through all the rumours to find the facts.
She said it was a "major surprise" to learn her cousin had been killed by a person with a gun, adding that it saddened her that he died that way.
"I want him to be remembered exactly how he was. He was a down-to-earth guy, the sweetest person ever. He's so willing to help anybody, you know. He was just the nicest person ever," said Cardinal.
"It's just really sad because he didn't deserve it at all."