Fatal shooting of teen has mother grieving, neighbours worried

The fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Hintonburg Tuesday night has left an Ottawa woman childless and has people in the community questioning the safety of their neighbourhood.

'He's supposed to bury me, and not me to bury him,' says mother of 17-year-old only child

Phillipina Mwakio said she lost her only son when 17-year-old Leslie Mwakio was fatally shot Tuesday. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

The fatal shooting of a 17-year-old boy in Hintonburg Tuesday night has left an Ottawa woman childless and has people in the community questioning the safety of their neighbourhood.

Leslie Mwakio was found shot in an SUV on Bayswater Avenue near Laurel Street at about 10:40 p.m., police said.

He was taken to the Ottawa Hospital's Civic campus trauma unit with life-threatening injuries, but later died. Mwakio was shot once in the head, CBC News has learned.

A son is a special person in our tribe. He's supposed to bury me, and not me to bury him.- Phillipina Mwakio, Leslie Mwakio's mother

It was Ottawa's 20th homicide of the year.

Phillipina Mwakio, the victim's mother, spoke briefly with CBC News Wednesday afternoon as police escorted her to a friend's home at her request.

She said Leslie was her only son.

"A son is a special person in our tribe," she said. "He's supposed to bury me, and not me to bury him. So it's a tragic loss for me and for our family."

In an email to CBC Wednesday evening, Phillipina Mwakio said her son was studying to complete high school at the Richard Pfaff Secondary Alternate Program in Centretown, and that they both planned to return to Africa later next year.

Andrew MacDonald, left, mentored Leslie Mwakio, right, from 2007 to 2012 as part of the Big Brothers program. The two are pictured here at a sugar bush. (Andrew MacDonald)

"Leslie was a good son who cherished his family," she wrote. "He was very loving and never failed to tell me while leaving home or concluding a phone call. He was a very bright boy whose life potential has been cut short senselessly."

Andrew MacDonald mentored Mwakio as part of the Big Brothers program for five years, until 2012. He remembers a shy but intelligent and curious boy.

"He was whip smart, always wanting to learn more and do more. He was active and always really helpful," said MacDonald, adding that he lost touch with Mwakio when he entered high school.

Concerns about Vibe Bistro & Lounge

While Mwakio's community grieved, people living near by say they fear for their safety, and pointed to Vibe Bistro & Lounge at the corner of Bayswater and Somerset Street W. as a source of many recent issues.

A man was shot on the business's property in 2013, but survived. In October, shots were fired on Somerset Street W. near Bayswater but no one was injured.

Justin Van Leeuwen, who lives with his family on Laurel Street, said he was woken up by "five or six loud pops."

"I didn't want to believe what it was ... It woke me up. It was loud," he said.

Leslie Mwakio poses for a photo with a dog. Mwakio would have turned 18 in March. (Photo provided by Mwakio family)
"Knowing that someone was murdered in their car, essentially in front of my house, was terrifying. That kind of violence ... maybe one person is targeted but that's the kind of thing that can easily go awry, astray."

Van Leeuwen said he wants to know what the response to ongoing violent incidents in the area will be.

"I'm scared, I'm sad, I'm worried about what Ottawa city's response is to this. ... My selfish concern is, what are you doing about Vibe Lounge in my neighbourhood right now?"

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said the city cannot order a business to close but said he plans to work with police to increase their presence in the neighbourhood.

Vibe manager says club not to blame

The manager of Vibe Bistro & Lounge said people are blaming the club unfairly, in response to requests the club be shut down.

Sam Jahantad pointed out the vehicle the teenager was found in was not parked outside his business. He said his business no longer even sells alcohol.

Sam Jahantad, the manager of Vibe Bistro & Lounge, said the shooting had nothing to do with his business. 'It could happen anywhere,' he said. (Radio-Canada)
"It could happen anywhere, unfortunately there is so much shooting happening in the city," he said.

Daniel Sykes, who also lives with his family on Bayswater just metres from the crime scene, said he's not surprised by the homicide given the crime trends in the area.

"It's difficult for us to do anything. I don't see what the community can do. There's been talk of a neighbourhood watch but what is a neighbourhood watch going to do against people with guns? We need police presence here. That's what we are going to require in order to feel safe here, because this is a shooting that's happening steps from my front door."

Sykes said he likely won't attend an upcoming community meeting about starting a neighbourhood watch.

"I really don't see what we as residents of this community can reasonably be expected to do. This isn't a problem that we are equipped to handle."