Shooting victim's family refutes reports of gang ties

The family of a Calgary man who was shot to death during a party at a southeast community hall is denying police reports that he was a gang member.
Abdalla Hussein was identified by police Tuesday as the victim of Sunday's shooting. ((Courtesy Hussein family))

The family of a Calgary man who was shot to death during a party at a southeast community hall is denying police reports that he was a gang member.

Abdalla Ali Hussein, 20, was killed early Sunday at Calgary's Albert Park Radisson Heights Community Centre.

He had been a gang member in Ottawa, police in that city confirmed on Tuesday.

"He was an associate member of the Crips, which is one of two significant gangs in Ottawa," said Ottawa Staff Sgt. Mike Callaghan. "You have the Bloods or the Crips. Unfortunately, I can't really comment a lot because of the investigation right now."

Calgary police added Hussein was known to its organized crime section.

"We have been monitoring his activities and his associates for the past year," said acting Staff Sgt. Martin Schiavetta.

But in an exclusive interview with CBC News, Hussein's family said he was never part of a gang and never dealt drugs.

'He was just a good guy'

"He was just a good guy. Everybody makes mistakes but they're trying to make him a monster," said Hussein's cousin, Ahmed Farah, of police and media reports. "No, he's not a gang member at all. He's never a gang member."

Samiya Hussein, the victim's sister, added: "Abdalla was the sweetest, most honest, kind-hearted person ever."

Abdalla Hussein's sister, left, and aunt told CBC News he was not part of a gang. ((Mike Moynihan/CBC))

She said the family moved to Calgary from Ottawa in 2005, and that her brother — the third of six children — had plans to return to school.

"Every teenager gets into trouble. Every teenager gets into a single fight here or there … but some people over-exaggerate," she said.

Hussein's father, Ali Hussein, denied newspaper stories about his son's alleged criminal past, but he did say that his middle child had been in jail days before the shooting for a breach of conditions related to an arrest for driving without a licence.

"What they are writing here is entirely untrue. It's baseless," he said.

Hussein's aunt, Kim Abdi, said the nephew she remembered as always being happy was in the "wrong time, wrong place."

Police have no arrests, reluctant witnesses

On Tuesday afternoon, Calgary police identified Hussein as the victim and confirmed he died after being shot. 

Four other people were treated for gunshot wounds. Three of those were innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire, police have said, while Hussein and another were targeted by the shooters.

Community hall volunteers clean up on Monday after the fatal party. ((CBC))

There have been no arrests.

Police said up to 200 people were in the community hall at the time of the shooting.

"Despite this fact, only a small number of witnesses have come forward to police," said a press release issued Tuesday.

"I know there's a lot of people who saw what happened and I think people just need to speak up," said Hussein's sister. "Help us.

"Don't be scared to speak. Put it in the hands of the law. Let them deal with it. We don't want this to happen to somebody else."

Possibility shooting not gang-related

An ambulance responds to the shooting early Sunday. ((On Scene Video))

The community association that runs the hall has said the venue had been booked for a wedding reception with an expected crowd of two dozen. But when the shooting happened at 3:20 a.m. Sunday, officials said there were hundreds of people and two DJs performing.

Calgary investigators say there is a possibility the shooting was not gang-related and could have escalated from an argument.

"It could be as tragic as wrong words were exchanged and someone took offence, and the way they sought retribution was to shoot," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Forsen of the homicide unit on Tuesday.

With files from Colleen Underwood and Bryan Labby