'How could it have degenerated in this way?' asks father after 3 killed in Montreal brawl

Jean-Marie Célestin is the father of Ulrick Peterson Célestin, 25, one of the three victims of a triple homicide in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood Tuesday evening. Célestin said his son worked in construction, doing cement work. (Radio-Canada - image credit)
Jean-Marie Célestin is the father of Ulrick Peterson Célestin, 25, one of the three victims of a triple homicide in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood Tuesday evening. Célestin said his son worked in construction, doing cement work. (Radio-Canada - image credit)

WARNING: This story contains a graphic image of the victims receiving medical care in the aftermath of a deadly fight.

The father of one of three people killed in a brawl involving more than a dozen people Tuesday evening in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal borough says he can't understand how a fight could have degenerated to such an extent.

One of the victims was 15 years old. The others were 23 and 25. Police say they knew each other, but that their conflict had nothing to do with organized crime.

Jean-Marie Célestin, the father of 25-year-old victim Ulrick Peterson Célestin, says he wishes the men had tried to resolve their issues without weapons.

"How could it have degenerated in this way? To have three people dead? Three mournings, three families in pain. Just for these silly disputes. That's what makes me so mad. These fights are for nothing," Célestin said, adding that young people should have more patience before reaching "for a knife or a gun."

"We want kids to live long lives, to go to school, to have careers."


The head of Montreal police's major crimes division Cmdr. Jean-Sébastien Caron held a news conference Wednesday morning, saying the brawl was a "chance event," unrelated to gangs or turf wars.

"It was a fight that degenerated which, unfortunately, led to the death of three people," Caron said.

Caron said the three men who died knew each other and that investigators have identified a number of suspects but have so far made no arrests. Célestin said his son had had run-ins with police, but was in no way involved with organized crime.

Police were called around 7 p.m. Tuesday, amid unusual late-spring heat, to respond to the brawl in a parking lot between St-André and Mentana streets, near La Fontaine Park.

The victims were rushed to hospital, where they were pronounced dead.

'You're going out. Be careful'

Célestin said his son had a two-year-old daughter. He said that when his son left the family home in Saint-Hubert, a borough of Longueuil, on Montreal's South Shore, Tuesday afternoon, he'd stopped him on his way out.

"I said, 'Peterson, do me a favour. You're going out. Be careful. Be careful with your car, be careful with yourself. Don't forget you have a little girl, barely two years old,'" Célestin said Wednesday, beginning to cry. His son had recently received certification in the preparing and finishing of concrete, and worked in construction, he said.

"He was a nice and honest guy. His only problem he had was that he sometimes got upset too easily," Célestin said.

He shared details about his family, saying he'd moved to Canada from Haiti 27 years ago, had been with his wife for 41 years and that the couple had had five boys and one girl.

Name withheld
Name withheld

Célestin was standing in a parking lot not far from where his son's car was parked and near where the fight had broken out the night before.

CBC News has confirmed the identity of the 23-year-old victim as Alexandre Vatamanu, and is choosing not to immediately publish the identity of the third victim because he was a minor.

Wednesday afternoon, a classmate of the 15-year-old victim from École Henri-Julien, a specialized high school in Montreal's Villeray neighbourhood, dropped a bouquet of flowers at the site where the men and adolescent died.

The friend, Angélique Langevin, 14, was accompanied by her mother. She told reporters the boy had been there for her at a difficult time in school.

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

"[He] was the kind of person who would come talk to me and who was there for me," Angélique said, wiping tears from her eyes. She said that when teachers had told her class about the boy's death, several students had started to cry.

Investigators were still on the scene Wednesday, looking for evidence and a motive for the crime. A command post was set up near the crime scene to facilitate the investigation.

The city's police chief, Fady Dagher, was also on site overnight.

Before the fight, Mohammad Mobed was in his sixth-floor apartment, facing the parking lot, when he noticed a gathering outside.

Later, as he was washing dishes, he said he heard screaming and objects falling, possibly hitting vehicles. That's when he decided to go to his balcony.

"I saw two people or bodies lying on the ground next to this car and blood coming out of one's head profusely," he said. "Both of them were very young. It was very sad."

Charles Contant/CBC
Charles Contant/CBC

He said paramedics performed CPR for at least half an hour.

José Aquino said he was smoking on his own balcony when he witnessed three people getting attacked. Aquino said the group had been there for about two hours, hanging out and listening to music before the violence erupted.

He said he saw one person involved in the brawl take out a wrench and, seconds later, another person took out a knife that looked like "a little machete."

Alain Beland/Radio-Canada
Alain Beland/Radio-Canada

"The third [victim] managed to get up," Aquino said. "He ran a bit. I lost sight of him, but it seems he fell not very far from the block."

Aquino said he found the attack shocking after living for two years in the neighbourhood, which he described as typically calm.

"I'm from the Dominican Republic and I've never seen a face-to-face attack in real time," he said. "It's like in the movies except it stays with you all night."

Célestin says that from the accounts of friends of his son who were there when the fight happened, and from videos he saw, his understanding is that the 15-year-old stabbed his son while he was walking away.

Police have not confirmed an account of the events that took place.

There have been five homicides on the island of Montreal in just four days. However, Caron of the SPVM insisted that the city is "extremely safe."

WATCH | More about the triple homicide:

In Quebec City, Public Security Minister François Bonnardel told reporters earlier Wednesday morning that Montreal was having "a difficult week," but that he is confident that the Montreal police can ensure the population's safety.