Megan Gillis,Ottawa Citizen
Police are mobilizing every resource to investigate four shootings that happened on Sunday, including the nightclub killing of a known gang member in which an armed suspect is still at large, brass told a hastily arranged press conference Monday.
Potential links between the incidents of gunplay are being investigated and police are asking anyone with information to come forward – while promising to protect them from any retaliation – and reassuring all Ottawans that the city remains safe.
But in three decades of policing, Supt. Don Sweet said he doesn’t think he’s ever seen four shootings in the span of 12 or 13 hours.
Police rallied officers from forensics, guns and gangs, general investigations and patrol over multiple scenes with lots of evidence and witnesses, Sweet said.
He said he’s confident there will be an arrest soon in the homicide of Omar Rashid-Ghader, 33, who was shot multiple times inside the Sentral nightclub in the ByWard Market at about 3:20 a.m. Sunday.
A known association of the dead man, 28-year-old Mustafa Ahmed, is wanted for second-degree murder.
“He is considered armed and dangerous,” Sweet said. “Somebody knows where this person is. We have to get him off the street before any more damage occurs.”
Minutes after the killing, there was a drive-by shooting on Presland Road at Whitton Private. Two people were treated for minor injuries and released.
Another drive-by shooting happened at 5:15 a.m. in the 2600 block of Innes Road. No one was hurt when a house was shot at several times. Police believe it happened at a post-clubbing after-party but do not yet know if it’s related to the ByWard Market shooting.
Finally, shots were exchanged between two vehicles near Ogilvie Road and Cummings Avenue in Overbrook at 4:50 p.m. Police recovered an older-model silver Ford Mustang but are still looking for a grey Nissan Altima.
It is only sheer luck that no bystanders were hurt, Sweet said.
Repeatedly, he said that co-operation of victims was a “challenge” for police.
Chief Charles Bordeleau said that while he understands residents are concerned, the incidents were targeted shootings involving criminal activity and gang members.
“They are not random,” Bordeleau said at the Shaw Centre, where the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police is holding its national meeting.
Bordeleau said that Ottawa is not alone as urban police forces see an increase in gang-related shootings. Ottawa police are working with the RCMP and border forces to stem the flow of smuggled handguns, such as a recent arrest of someone bringing the illegal guns through Cornwall to Ottawa.
Bordeleau urged any witnesses to come forward despite what he called legitimate concerns that have been expressed about retribution for going to police.
“We can do things to prevent that,” he said, urging anyone with information to “take that one step.”
The chief said that police are working to ensure that Ottawa, which will soon be the focus of the nation’s 150th birthday celebrations, remains a safe city.
“That’s not something we can do alone,” he said. “We need help from the community.”
Mayor Jim Watson said Monday the weekend shootings were alarming.
“There’s no question the situation on the weekend was very frightening and very disturbing. Even though Ottawa is a safe community by all standards in North America – one of the safest – when you see that kind of violence and murder and guns being shot randomly, that’s a concern,” Watson said.
It’s why police budgeted to hire 25 new officers this year and the city put more money into anti-gang initiatives, Watson said.
Watson is encouraging people to call police with any information to help investigators. Families should be pressured to find out if their children have guns, he said.
“If they know their child has a gun, they should be contacting the police. There’s no room for people to have handguns in an urban setting like the City of Ottawa,” Watson said.
“We are a safe city, but people don’t feel safe when they see this kind of brazen activity taking place in a crowded bar or residential street.”