'I wasn't going to walk away': Partner of mom of 5 reflects on year since she was killed
On a recent frigid Thursday afternoon, a home in northeast Calgary is busy with four active kids unwinding after a day at school. The television in the corner plays a reality show with the sound turned off while Hamburger Helper cooks in a frying pan in the kitchen.
Jeffery Poirier, 41, is directing traffic. It's almost been a year since his partner, Angela McKenzie, was killed, leaving her five children without their mom.
As Calgary police understand it today, what led to McKenzie's death last May started with a targeted attack. The driver of a Chevrolet Silverado was pursuing and shooting at the driver of a Volkswagen Jetta.
Both vehicles approached a southeast intersection at high speed, where McKenzie was driving a silver van. McKenzie's vehicle was struck, and when emergency services arrived, she was declared deceased at the scene.
Nearly a week later, Calgary police issued a Canada-wide warrant for a convicted Calgary gangster. He has yet to be located.
I love the kids to pieces, and it was the only logical thing for me to do. - Jeffery Poirier, Angela McKenzie's partner
Along with Sylvia McKenzie, Angela's mother, Poirier has been taking care of her five kids, whose ages range from nine to 18. The two act as joint guardians of the children. The kids' biological father died last February.
"It's definitely been a learning curve. It's different. I don't know how really else to describe it," Poirier said. "We're doing our best, we're learning as we go … me and grandma, both, we are 100 per cent doing it together."
WATCH | How Jeffery Poirier has approached the last year since the death of his partner, Angela McKenzie:
Memories come often
Poirier first met McKenzie when he was 20 years old, working for her father, and knew all of the kids since they had been born.
In the living room, McKenzie's framed photo is enclosed in a glass display case. The reminders of McKenzie come daily, if not hourly, Poirier said. Certain songs remind him of her. He has her name tattooed on his arm.
"She's forever a part of me … she's with me everywhere," he said.
When he thinks of McKenzie today, he remembers the person Angela was and where she put her time, like how she volunteered at the church.
"Her way of looking at things is she always saw the good in people. She refused to see bad. Because she knew everybody had good."
Without the help of Sylvia, Poirier said he wouldn't be able to handle taking care of the kids. But knowing the situation, there was no decision he could have made aside from staying, he said.
"I wasn't going to walk away. Me and Ang were totally planning on making a complete life with each other. So, regardless of the situation, I love the kids to pieces, and it was the only logical thing for me to do, right?" he said. "I don't really see anything really different or special about it.
"You know, I truthfully feel that a lot more people should be willing to step up for certain things."
Police still searching
Nearly 11 months after the collision, police are still searching for the individual they allege is responsible. On May 16, Canada-wide warrants were issued for Talal Amer, 29, who faces charges of attempted murder, manslaughter, reckless discharge of a firearm, possession of a prohibited firearm with an obliterated serial number and several other gun-related offences.
Amer was previously charged with six counts of attempted murder in 2016 following a bloody street war in 2015. He was sentenced to prison after he pleaded guilty to lesser charges — recklessly discharging a firearm and conspiracy to traffic drugs. His prison sentence expired five days before the incident involving McKenzie.
Calgary police have since been utilizing the BOLO Program — short for "be on the lookout" — in an attempt to locate Amer. On the program's website, a list of the 25 most wanted suspects in Canada includes Amer. He was listed as No. 6 on Friday, with a reward of up to $50,000 offered.
After warrants were issued, Calgary police went to the community with a plea to locate a driver they believe may have unwittingly given a ride to the suspect. That person has never been located.
"We want to bring a good resolution to this for Angela's family," said Staff Sgt. Sean Gregson of the homicide unit in an interview on Thursday.
Poirier said he wants justice for what happened to McKenzie, but he's not sure the legal system can bring him closure.
"What's your definition of closure, though? Because that chapter in my life is closed, because Ang is no longer here," he said.
"But I don't really think I can say that it would give me closure, because, to be honest with you, my life's not going to change either way. It already did."