ByWard Market businesses shaken by deadly shootings

Some business owners in the ByWard Market, where one man was killed and another wounded before the suspected gunman died in a shootout with a police officer early Saturday morning, are calling on police to step up their presence in the neighbourhood.

Weekend shootings that left 2 dead, 1 hurt 'disturbing,' but Ottawa still 'very safe,' mayor says

Two men died and another was injured in related shootings in the ByWard Market early Saturday morning. The province's Special Investigations Unit is probing the shootings. (CBC)

Some business owners in the ByWard Market, where one man was killed and another wounded before the suspected gunman died in a shootout with a police officer early Saturday morning, are calling on police to step up their presence in the neighbourhood.

Ottawa police generally step up foot patrols of the ByWard Market and Lowertown areas during the summer months, and the force said Monday that this year it will occur before the end of June to coincide with the standard influx of tourists.

But it would be better to have more officers in the area year-round, business owners say, not just during summer.

"It's very, very scary to work here at night," said Francoise Sarkes, owner of The Shawarma Place on Dalhousie Street. 

Her son was working at the restaurant when the shooting occurred outside, she said.

'It's very, very scary to work here at nigh,' said Francoise Sarkes, owner of The Shawarma Place on Dalhousie Street. (Jennifer Chevalier/CBC)

"They heard the shooting, people were crossing by, yelling, screaming. They were very scared," Sarkes said. "We need more police, more people under cover." 

Across the street, Il Perugino café was still open when the gunfire broke out. 

"I closed the door and I told all my customers who were here — about 10 to 15 customers — I told them stay inside, don't go out, stay in with us, and I locked the door," said owner John Marcarelli, who has worked at various ByWard Market businesses for about a decade.

"I think the last couple of years it has got worse."

While Marcarelli said he often sees police officers patrolling the area and doesn't feel worried for his own safety, he believes the violence will have an impact on the popularity of the entertainment destination. 

John Marcarelli's locked the doors of his café, Il Perugino, when the gunfire broke out Saturday morning. (Roger Dubois/CBC )

"It's a pretty secure city. We never had those thoughts — oh my God, I'm going out tonight, is something going to happen to me? We never had those worries. Now it's going to be a little bit different. Most people, most civilians will be scared coming downtown. It's not good for business or the people who want to have a regular weekend out."

City still 'very safe,' mayor assures residents

Mayor Jim Watson called the shootings on Saturday morning "very disturbing," but assured residents the city remains "very safe."

Watson also said the fact a police officer was on the scene immediately after the first shots were fired shows there is adequate police presence on the city's streets.

We can't have a police officer at every corner, that's just physically and financially impossible.- Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson

"We can't have a police officer at every corner, that's just physically and financially impossible," Watson said. "But certainly what we've tried to do is to increase the presence and bring police officers to those areas that need more attention."

Irvin Waller, a University of Ottawa criminologist and author of Smarter Crime Control, characterizes the police response on the weekend as "very fast."

"The ByWard Market has police available," he said. "If it had happened anywhere else in the city, it would have taken more time for the police to get there."

He added that most shootings and stabbings occur between people who know each other. "The only danger to other people is when bullets go astray. Which they do, but rarely."

There's no evidence suggesting Terrence Phillips, who died in Saturday's shooting, or Bun Sim, who was injured, knew the gunman who later died in an exchange of gunfire with police. The province's Special Investigations Unit is investigating that man's killing.