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‘She was a hero’: Mass shooting victim Angie Sweeney saved her daughter’s life

Angie's loved ones share memories of a woman who was ‘afraid of nothing’ — and their newfound mission to protect others from intimate partner violence
Brian and Suzanne Sweeney are flanked by murder victim Angie Sweeney's childhood friends Renee Buczel and Lindsay Stewart. The Sweeney's are promising to be a thorn in the side of governments low and high until positive change is made in the issue of intimate partner violence.

WARNING: This article contains graphic details and language that may disturb some readers.

Every morning for the past week since their daughter was killed in her Tancred Street home, Brian and Suzanne Sweeney have woke up crying. But the couple promises, with the help of Angie’s friends and with the support of the public, they will push governments to change laws, to take intimate partner violence seriously and prevent a tragedy like this from happening ever again.

On Sunday, SooToday sat down with Brian and Suzanne, as well as Angie’s long-time friends Renee Buczel and Lindsay Stewart, to share their plans to address the intimate partner violence crisis affecting communities across Canada and to remember the 41-year-old mother who they say died a hero.

Angie was the first of four gunshot victims killed late in the evening on Oct. 23 by Bobbie Hallaert, a longtime boyfriend she had recently broken up with. After she died in her Tancred Street, the gunman drove to another house on Second Line East, where he killed three children, injured a second woman, and then turned the gun on himself.

“I was a puddle for days and like Brian said, we both wake up every morning crying," said Suzanne. "We’re never going to see her face again. It’s not fair. It’s just not fair. They need to change something."

Still reeling emotionally from Angie’s death, the Sweeneys, Stewart and Buczel are choosing to not think of her as a victim but remember her for the good times.

“Angie was authentic,” said Buczel, who had been her close friend for more than 20 years. “She never tried to be something she wasn’t. She was late, she was loud, she was the life of the party, she played music loud and she wanted to dance.”

Angie was working as an insurance broker at BrokerLink in Sault Ste. Marie and was working on gaining additional certifications to advance her career.

“There was nothing she backed away from, no matter how tough it was,” added Brian. “Nothing held her back, she was just that amazing.”

Angie had been working through a number of health issues in life that required multiple surgeries and a hip replacement, but once healed she got right back on her mountain bike to tour the trials in the city and advance her love of health and wellness.

Angie Sweeney seen with her father Brian Sweeney in this undated Facebook photo. Brian is promising to not stop until the laws are changed in this country to prevent intimate partner violence killings from taking another life, like what happened to his daughter.

In March of 2020, Stewart was first told about Angie’s new relationship with Hallaert in a series of texts.

“Eek,” was her response to her childhood friend. She warned Angie he was bad news, and after some pushing she informed her he was addicted to meth.

At the time, Angie didn’t see any evidence of that and continued to see Hallaert. Stewart did what any good friend would do: say her peace but ultimately respect her friend’s decision and support her.

“I said just watch his actions and be sure to have a conversation with him, you deserve to be happy,” said Stewart, reciting a text message thread with Angie from March 2020.

At the time, Hallaert was dealing with criminal charges laid in December 2019 for assaulting a police officer, mischief and resisting arrest. “He had that charge pending when he met Angie,” said Brian. “I asked him about it and he said he got into a scuffle with an officer who was getting a little pushy and knocked his glasses off, that’s what he told me.”

Hallaert eventually pleaded guilty to assault in December 2021 and received a one-year probation order, which included a weapons ban for the same amount of time.

“Shortly after they got together he relapsed and she told us about a situation that had happened with him," said Buczel. "We’re not one to hold back and we both vocalized how we both felt he was a piece of shit and you have to run for the fences. He just showed you his true colours because he’s using meth and his actions after he used meth involved a firearm — he had them and at that time he wasn’t supposed to have them.”

Instead, Angie continued to see Hallaert, but laid down the law that to be in a relationship with her he had to be clean and sober.

“From that point on he essentially did get his shit together. He was clean, he was sober and she was testing him,” said Buczel.

“He was never my favourite person, but I was never afraid." she added. "I didn’t get the ‘he’s going to turn around and kill her and three children’ vibes. Otherwise something would have been said.”

Suzanne said she let Angie know her feelings about Hallaert shortly after she met her daughter’s new boyfriend.

“I looked him in the eyes when I first met him and when I was alone with my daughter the next day I said I don’t like his eyes — that’s exactly what I said — I don’t like his eyes,” said Suzanne. “And I never liked him from then — I had to tolerate him, but I did not like him ever.”

Brian said he and Hallaert "exchanged words" on a number of occasions but he ultimately decided to avoid interacting with him. If Hallaert’s silver Dodge Ram pickup was in Angie’s driveway, Brian would often keep driving past and not stop in.

“I just found she always had the worst luck with guys. She wanted to help the worst puppy dog in the kennel, you know what I mean? Not take one that already had a chance, but take the one that didn’t stand a chance,” he said. “That’s the way she was and her heart was just too big on this one and it cost her life.”

Things went south in the days before the murder, when Angie had asked Hallaert, an employee at Algoma Steel, to leave her home. Police were called to the Tancred Street address and Hallaert was removed. Around the same time, Hallaert was slapped with a no contact order by the Sault Ste. Marie Police Service.

“From what I have gathered, I think he went on a binge on meth because apparently from what I heard through a solid grapevine is he failed his test at Algoma [Steel] due to meth. I think after he and my daughter had split up,” said Brian. “My daughter always kept test kits on hand for drugs because he was a drug addict before when she first met him — he was into heavy coke and probably meth too.”

“They have to do more about these chemical drugs,” he added. “Chemical drugs and these people who have mental health issues or even if they are having a bad time and turn to drugs — it turns people into fucking lunatics. It’s just a terrible combination.”

The family said Hallaert broke that no contact order earlier in the day that Angie was murdered, before he returned with at least one gun.

“Angie had said he was whacked out of his tree the first time,” said Stewart.

In the interview with SooToday, Brian confirmed a detail many in the community already knew as rumour — that his daughter died a hero protecting her 12-year-old daughter, who was in the house at the time.

“She was a hero," he said. "She just knew in her mind if she didn't put herself out there to be the victim, then her daughter wouldn’t be here today."

SooToday is not revealing what her daughter experienced that night, but the family says she followed her mother’s instructions to the letter and they are proud of her actions.

Angie’s 16-year-old son was living with Brian and Suzanne at the time and was not in the Tancred Street home at the time of the killing.

“Angie’s children have been so strong through this and we are like: 'Of course they have been because they are her children and she was truly the strongest one,'” said Buczel.

Buczel said she can’t help but wonder what Angie experienced in her tragic final minutes of life. ”It haunted me for three days — every time I tried to close my eyes I was thinking about how afraid the girl who was afraid of nothing was in that moment."

Bobbie Hallaert's pickup truck is removed from the driveway of a Second Line East residence on Friday, days after the gunman killed three children, a woman, and injured another woman before fatally turning the gun on himself. Kenneth Armstrong/SooToday

From Tancred Street, Hallaert drove his pickup to the Second Line East address, where police said he killed the three children — aged six, seven and 12 — injured another woman before killing himself with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Because the surviving woman is a victim of intimate partner violence, and has requested privacy, Sault Police have not released her name or the names of the children who were killed. SooToday has chosen to do the same because our news organization does not release details that may identify a victim of domestic abuse.

“They were three beautiful children and it’s just such a shame," said Brian, who knew the kids well. "It’s worse than criminal, that’s just plain fucking evil is what it boils down to in my eyes."

Brian believes more could have been done to save his daughter.

“When Angie called and said this man won’t leave my house you take a look — okay, this man has a history of intimate partner violence, this man has a history of assaulting a police officer, this man has a history of substance abuse,” he said. “What you do is remove this man from the house but you know this man is not afraid to hurt a cop, he’s not afraid to hurt a woman. He has a history of doing drugs, so that is the perfect storm for what happened here. So when that call came, why wasn’t there something more seriously done?”

After only a couple days of consideration, Brian says he has a plan for what he is going to urge higher levels of government to do to prevent the same thing that happened in Sault Ste. Marie from happening anywhere else in the country.

Brian’s plan includes a mandatory 48-hour holding of someone accused of intimate partner violence. In that time, a psychiatric evaluation and drug test can be administered and any weapons the accused has can be removed from the situation.

“The minute they get the complaint and do the background check on the guy, automatically they go into the residence and any weapons that could hurt somebody, even if it’s just a hand knife or whatever, all the weapons come out, all of the guns come out. Everything gets put in storage,” said Brian. “They can either forfeit it to the government where they will collect guns for free, they don’t have to pay for them, or they can pay for the storage of the guns until their psych evaluation says they are entitled to have them back.”

Brian said there should be no second chances when it comes to dangerous weapons and people involved in intimate partner violence.

“In reality, once you fuck up like that you should never be able to get a gun again. Not even get near one and if you’re caught near one — God bless you, you go to jail for five years,” he said. “You have to get tough around the laws and stop being pussycats with the criminals because that’s all they are is criminals getting away with murder. And now they are killing our future. Our kids are our future. Them doing this and letting them get away with it — that’s the part that blows me out of the water.”

Brian said he understands the province will need to take action, but so will the federal government in Ottawa.

“Once we tackle this ordeal and straighten this out in Ontario we are going to go to Ottawa, I don’t care. I’m going there,” he said. “And this catch and release, we’re not a fishing derby where you catch the fish and you let it go back in the water and nobody gets hurt, you let somebody like that out and goddamn it somebody gets killed. This catch and release is bullshit.”

“If you’re stupid enough to make a bad decision and do the crime, then get ready to do the time. That’s all there is to do it. Either you think before you do or you go to fucking jail. We have to get these people off the fucking streets and out of society,” he added.

“This has to be taken seriously in every community across Ontario and all of Ontario has to show the rest of Canada this is the right thing to do. Let’s be the lead for the rest of Canada,” said Buczel.

Brian said his plan will also get guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

“It’s going to be a win win for everybody and you don’t have to buy them back, let these fucking idiots be stupid enough to do something stupid but you have to catch it right away. You can’t wait until they kill people,” he said.

The plan will cost more money on the treatment and incarceration side, Brian acknowledges, but he said it will save money on frontline policing and paramedic calls.

“When she called there and said she asked him to leave and she informed police officers they had just broken up, that’s when the cops should have taken him and put him in the fucking car, brought him to the police station, had him start the 48-hour evaluation and if that would have happened, none of this would have happened,” said Brian. “He would have had time to come off his high. If he’s bouncing off the fucking floor like a funky chicken, you know he’s higher than Joe C—’s dog. I’m getting pissed off about the whole ordeal. I want action and I want action now.”

“How many red flags do you have to have before they pay attention? I mean come on. Here were probably half a dozen reasons why he should never have been able to go back there and why he should have been locked up for 48 hours,” said Brian.

Before Brian, family and friends make it to Ottawa, they first have to address Sault Ste. Marie City Council. Brian and Buczel are scheduled to speak tonight in support of a motion for council to pressure Queen’s Park to declare intimate partner violence an epidemic in Ontario. They will join Dan Jennings at the podium, a Sault man who lost his 22-year-old daughter to intimate partner violence in July.

“I won’t accept anything but everything that I want and I’m going to push it all right to the end,” promised Brian.

“Right now the spotlight of Canada, the spotlight of Ontario is on Sault Ste. Marie. Now is the time for change to happen,” said Buczel. “We feel like now is the time because the eyes are on the Sault. If we want change this is probably the best chance, that’s why we are trying to stay strong while we start the process.

Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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