Hamilton

Urban Lounge shooting likely targeted but ended with 'casualties of stray gunfire:' police

Hamilton police say autopsies are being performed on the victims who died after a man walked into the bar on Barton Street East and Chestnut Avenue and fired shots on Sunday.

Officers don't have a motive for the suspect yet and are continuing to investigate

Hamilton police say 25-year-old Rhonda Homsombath from Hamilton and 39-year-old Jahmal Thomas from Brantford died after a man walked into the bar on Barton Street East and Chestnut Avenue and fired shots — but investigators think the bullets were only meant for Thomas. (Submitted by Hamilton Police and Facebook)

Hamilton police said the bullets fired at Urban Lounge on Sunday were likely meant to only hit one person — instead, they hit four and now two are dead.

Detectives identified the two victims of the shooting inside a bar at Barton Street East and Chestnut Avenue as 25-year-old Rhonda Homsombath from Hamilton and 39-year-old Jahmal Thomas from Brantford Monday at noon.

Hours later, Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk, with the Hamilton police Major Crime Unit, said Thomas was known to police and now believes he was the intended target.

"But why? We don't know. And what led to that we don't know if this was something that was planned for this night or if this was just something that happened to occur," he said.

"We believe there was a dispute of some sort with one or more males with Jamal, I understand that dispute may have been very brief and [then] shots fired."

Det. Sgt. Steve Bereziuk looks over paperwork at the scene of Hamilton's third fatal shooting of the year. He says the shooting may have emanated from a dispute at the bar on Sunday at 5 a.m. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Clippings from the Hamilton Spectator, Kingston Whig-Standard and Toronto Sun show someone with that name and the same age as the victim had an extensive criminal background which dates back to 1999 and includes charges for gun possession, robbery and ties to Toronto's Cripps gang and a local gang in Hamilton.

Police don't know if Thomas and the suspect knew each other.

He adds while the suspect is still on the run, he doesn't think the general public "has anything to fear at this moment in time."

As for two other men who are recovering from their injuries in hospital and Homsombath, who died from the shots, Bereziuk said they were "casualties of stray gunfire" — all three knew each other and were coming from Zen Lounge on John Street South after gathering to remember Carel Douse, who was stabbed to death last May.

Officers don't think Thomas is connected to any of them.

Meanwhile, Homsombath's family remembers her as a young mother who was "full of life" with "many plans for the future for her and her beautiful daughter."

The family set up a GoFundMe page to for the girl, which has raised roughly $5,720 as of Monday afternoon.

Police responded to reports of gunshots at 5 a.m. on Sunday inside the small basement bar, which only seems to have one way in and out. Officers say while service may have stopped at last call, witnesses told them many glasses and bottles were still full of alcohol.

They say a thin, dark-skinned five-foot-ten-inch tall man in his 30s with short, braided hair entered the building. The man, who was wearing dark jeans or pants with a zip-up tracksuit sweater, reportedly got into an argument with Thomas. Others may have been involved.

That's when police believe the man pulled out a gun inside the packed room with at least 40 people and fired at Thomas.

Hamilton police identified the two victims who died after a shooting at Urban Lounge on Sunday. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The aftermath was people pouring out of the bar, running down Chestnut Avenue and up toward Barton Street East. A trail of blood shows one of the victims ran toward the front of Sam's Hotel and Tavern.

"Bottles and debris are scattered throughout a very small area … it's a very messy scene down there," Bereziuk said about the inside of the bar.

Police are continuing to scour the area for video footage and canvass the neighborhood to identify the suspect or suspects. 

Part of the trail of blood left by victims of a shooting at the Urban Lounge indicates people ran out of the building after bullets flew in the bar at Barton Street East and Chestnut Avenue. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

They say the investigation at the bar will continue for at least another day as members from the forensics unit enter the building with protection over their feet to avoid contaminating any evidence.

This marks the city's third and fourth fatal shootings this year.

About the Author

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

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