Kicked out in the cold: Family blames bar after Edmonton man, 20, dies in street

Family and friends of a young Edmonton man who died after he was kicked out of The Ranch Roadhouse on a freezing Friday night are calling for the bar to be closed.

'They should be responsible for what they did to this young man,' uncle says

Family and friends say Mohamed Abdi was an outstanding athlete who dreamed of serving in the Canadian military. (Supplied by Abdi family)

Family and friends of a young Edmonton man who died after he was kicked out of The Ranch Roadhouse on a freezing Friday night are calling for the bar to be closed.

On Sunday, Mohamed Abdi's body was discovered under a truck at a car dealership near the bar. Abdi, 20, had been ordered to leave the bar two days earlier, when the temperature was –16 C,  because he was intoxicated. His family believe he froze to death.

In a north Edmonton home on Tuesday, Abdi's grandfather, uncles, aunts and cousins wept as they struggled to process the tragedy.

They should be responsible for what they did to this young man who had a future in front of him—  Abdifatah Abdulkadir

His uncles said Abdi had only $10 in his wallet, not enough to pay for a cab. They questioned why the bar would throw out an intoxicated customer in freezing temperatures.

"That bar should shut down, and not only shut down — they should be responsible for what they did to this young man, who had a future in front of him," said Abdi's uncle Abdifatah Abdulkadir, wiping away tears.
Abdifatah Abdulkadir, Mohamed Abdi's uncle, tries to make sense of the death of his nephew outside The Ranch Roadhouse. 1:52

"I wish that could have been me who died. Because I already have children."

In a statement, The Ranch apologized but said staff took steps to ensure Abdi's safety. The bar has launched an investigation, and Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis is investigating.

The oldest of eight siblings, Abdi arrived in Canada from the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya when he was six .

He made his family proud.

Uncle after uncle described him as a standup young man who was there when people needed him. They said he was fiercely loyal and outstanding at sports, and he dreamed of serving in the Canadian Forces.

"He loved the country," said Adam Mahamed. "That's why he wanted to join the military."
Abdi played basketball, football, soccer and rugby. (Supplied by Abdi family)

In photos on social media, Mo, as everyone called him, can be seen flying through the air on basketball courts and football fields, and at graduation, sporting events or parties, surrounded by friends and family, their arms slung around each other.

One of those friends was Shae Kelly, who met Abdi in Grade 12 at Paul Kane High School in St. Albert. Kelly said he was bullied by many kids during junior high and high school, until one day, Abdi put a stop to it.

Shae Kelly says Mo Abdi stood up to a student who was bullying him. (Supplied by Shae Kelly)

As students were returning from football and basketball practice, Kelly recalled, one player began shoving him into a locker "like usual" and making fun of him.

"Out of nowhere, Mo came in," Kelly said. "I didn't even know Mo. He defended me. He stood up for me out of the kindness of his heart. 

"I was the kind of kid who didn't really have any friends in junior high and high school. Until that day, actually. He didn't care that I had no friends and I wasn't popular, but he stood up for me and no one had ever done that for me. Ever."

Michael Webb played on a basketball team with Abdi in St. Albert.

"He was always that guy who was there when you needed him," said Webb. "The funniest, genuine, kindest soul you could ever ask for."

Bryan Breda said out of their group of friends, Abdi was the smallest guy with the loudest laugh and the brightest smile.

"He'd just bring joy to you and anyone that he was around."

He'd just bring joy to you and anyone that he was around— Bryan Breda

Breda, who was at The Ranch that night, said the bouncer accused Abdi of being drunk and told him he had to leave. Friends didn't think Abdi was drunk on Friday, but Breda said his friend had been kicked out of the bar after previous altercations.

Abdi and two friends went to a gas station across the road, said Breda. But at the end of the night, the friends lost track of Abdi. The designated driver and a friend searched for a few hours, then went home.

The next morning, friends and family realized Abdi was missing.

Mo Abdi, centre, with uncles Abu Hussein and Salah Abdulkadir at his high school graduation in 2016. (Supplied by Abdi family)

Abdulkadir recalled a desperate search as people traced Abdi's last steps and combed the city to look for him. He was eventually found by staff at the dealership. Abdulkadir said it appeared his nephew had tried to take shelter from the cold by crawling under a vehicle.

Another uncle, Abdulkadir Osman, said: "We need justice. That's all we need."

Abdi's mother is flying in Friday from Kenya, where she was on vacation. Abdi, who had left Canada with his mother, cut his trip short so he could return home to train for the military fitness test, Abdulkadir said.

Thousands sign petition to close bar

Friends have launched a petition calling for The Ranch Roadhouse to be shut down. By Tuesday morning, more than 23,000 people had signed. A protest outside the bar is planned for Friday evening. An online fundraiser has collected more than $8,000 for funeral expenses. 

Police have ruled the death non-criminal.

The AGLC's investigation into last year's death of Tyler Emes, 18, who left the same bar after a night of drinking, resulted in no sanctions.

Three days after Emes died, The Ranch was among dozens of bars recognized by the AGLC at an awards night for demonstrating an "outstanding commitment to make their nightspot a safer environment."

The AGLC was set to recognize The Ranch again on Tuesday evening but informed owners earlier in the day it wouldn't be appropriate because of Abdi's death, said AGLC spokesperson Heather Holmen.

Licensed establishments have a legal responsibility not to over-serve patrons, said Ubaka Ogbogu, a University of Alberta professor.

"And if you do get them intoxicated, the law is very clear: you have to get them home safely," he said.

In a statement Tuesday, The Ranch co-owner Jesse Kupina said staff took several steps to ensure Abdi's safety before he left with a friend. He also apologized and offered condolences to his family.

"I am sorry," wrote Kupina. "We are actively reviewing if there is more we could have done."


About the Author

Andrea Huncar


Andrea Huncar reports on human rights, immigrant and Indigenous communities, youth at-risk and the justice system. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

With files from Alex Zabjek, Elizabeth Hames and Tanara McLean