Edmonton police have issued warrants, including one for second-degree murder, for Luqman Osman in connection with Wednesday morning’s shooting death at the Papyrus Lounge at 112th Street and 107th Avenue.
The 31-year old victim, Bekri Mohamad, was found dead on the floor of the club. CBC News has learned the Edmonton man had a minor drug-related record with two convictions five years ago.
During a news conference held Thursday morning, Staff Sgt. Bill Clark said Osman, 25, was out on bail and due back in court in February for a preliminary hearing into the 2014 New Year’s Eve shooting at the Ethiopian community centre at 105th Avenue and 115th Street.
Staff Sgt. Clark didn’t mince words when he was asked by reporters why Osman was out on bail.
“We’re going after an individual now that maybe should have been locked up and this maybe wouldn’t have happened,” he said.
Police say Osman is considered armed and dangerous and is described as a black man, in his mid-20s, approximately 6’3” tall with a medium build. The suspect has a beard and scars that are visible on his neck.
Aside from the second-degree murder charge, Osman also faces several firearms charges related to the shooting at the Ethiopian community centre, where no one was injured. He was granted bail in April 2014 and ordered to remain in Alberta, surrender his passport, observe a curfew and abstain from alcohol.
Staff Sgt. Clark said Osman has ties to Fort McMurray, Brooks, Alta. and Toronto, and that Wednesday’s shooting happened because of a “beef in the bar” and was not drug or gang-related.
“The victim did not expect this argument to escalate to this, but you just never know what’s going through the minds of other people,” he said.
Both the victim, Bekri Mohamad and the suspect in the shooting are from Edmonton and police said it doesn’t appear the two knew each other well.
Three years ago, the Papyrus was at the centre of another homicide investigation. On Jan. 1, 2011, Mohamud Mohamed Jama, 23, was shot in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day.
Clark now says they have a suspect in the 2011 homicide but still need more information from witnesses.
Police thank community
Clark used the 2011 homicide case at the Papyrus Lounge as an example of how important the community is when naming a suspect in a homicide case. After that shooting, Clark expressed frustration that only one witness gave police a description of a suspect even though the club was full of people.
He suggested if the Somali-Canadian community wouldn't help, police would move on to other cases.
Contrast that to this case when Clark said because of information from witnesses — many of who remained at the bar until police arrived — investigators were able to identify a suspect within hours of the shooting.
“Numerous people in the Somali community, specifically, have stepped up in this case. They’ve been very courageous and because of that we have been able to move this investigation forward at a very fast pace,” Clark said.
Lounge's licence suspended
Police confirmed on Thursday that the city’s Public Safety Compliance Team, a partnership between the City of Edmonton, EPS, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission and other organizations, have started a regulatory investigation into the Papyrus Lounge.
A police spokesperson said the lounge has been on the radar of police for a while, referencing steps taken in November 2012 to revoke the owner’s business license in November 2012. The chief licensing officer elected instead to have its Minor’s Prohibited/Alcohol Sales License revoked, replacing it with a Minor’s Allowed/Alcohol sales license, effectively switching it from a nightclub to a restaurant. The owner successfully appealed the chief licensing officer’s decision in February 2014.
Witnesses told CBC there have been other shootings at the lounge in the last three months. Police said on Sept.13, 2014 and Sept. 20, 2014 there were shootings.
“I believe one of the bullets entered the kitchen. Those events are both still being investigated and we’re seeking witnesses,” said EPS spokesperson Scott Pattison.
“It’s no secret, there’s some history to that particular location so again the process is underway once again and we’ll see where that goes.”
On Thursday afternoon, the city granted a 14-day suspension of the lounge's business licence. Police say they were able to locate the owner of the business and serve him with the notice.