Youth worker killed in weekend hotel shooting remembered as 'an amazing kid'

Yassin Abdu Ahmed, 20, and Reagan Danielle Gross, 49, who died in separate incidents on the weekend, have been identified as the victims in Winnipeg's first two homicides of 2020.

Yassin Abdu Ahmed, 20, inspired young people by getting them onto the court

Yassin Ahmed, shot outside a downtown hotel Sunday morning, is being remembered for his talent for basketball, positivity and impact on the young people he worked with. (Submitted by family)

A well-loved youth worker shot at a downtown Winnipeg hotel early Sunday morning is being remembered for his positivity and ability to inspire young people through sport.

Yassin Abdu Ahmed, 20, was killed at the Windsor Hotel just before 3 a.m. Two other men were also taken to hospital in critical condition after being shot, but are now in stable condition.

Ahmed had been employed by the city of Winnipeg as a youth worker, most recently at Broadway Neighbourhood Centre where he led programming, supported and shot hoops with a growing group of teens who dropped in because of him.

"I've never seen probably a more positive, courteous young man. He went out of his way to become a positive role model," said Lawrence (Spatch) Mulhall, the centre's director. "He was always asking if he could help out, what was next, he was great at doing conflict resolution stuff." 

On Monday night, Mulhall brought a group of teens Ahmed had worked with to a community support circle held in his memory at Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre on Langside Street in the city's West End, where he'd also worked with youth.

"They were saying that they don't want to believe it and they can't look at a picture of him without tears welling up in their eyes. So in the short time he was with us he made a big impact with them," said Mulhall.
Lawrence (Spatch) Mulhall, director of Broadway Neighbourhood Centre where Ahmed worked, said he was a positive role model who always had a smile on his face. (CBC/John Einarson)

"He was the type of guy who would just come in and go straight into the gym and pick up a ball, and say 'alright, let's play 21, let's play full court basketball,'" he said.

"I haven't seen that in our gym for a long time. He was all about positive reinforcement and just being really positive with the kids."

James Lathlin, whose son was friends with Ahmed, said the man's friends and family were distraught when they heard the news on Sunday.

"We just jumped in the car and ran over to the parents' house," said Lathlin. "Everyone there was crying and we just hugged each other."

 Lathlin, a former gang member who is now a public speaker raising awareness about the dangers of crime and drugs, said he helped him get the job at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre.

"There was never a time that he didn't have a smile on his face, and he was always positive about life," said Mulhall.

At a news conference Monday morning, Winnipeg Police Service spokesperson Const. Rob Carver said the incident began inside the hotel on Garry Street "then spilled out into the area surrounding it." Police do not believe it was a drive-by shooting.

Asked if the injured people knew one another, Carver said there was some connection — "it wasn't random" — but he couldn't get into details.

Police believe there was a much larger group of people when the incident first began inside the hotel but Carver could not offer more information about that.

Police are looking into gang connections to the incident, he added.

"I can tell you that in almost all situations of public shootings, where the shooting moves out onto a street, that almost without question the underlying theme is gang involvement. Almost 100 per cent," Carver said.

Lathlin said he doesn't believe the shooting was gang-related.

"He wouldn't be involved in that. He was an amazing kid," he said. "He just recently moved out of his place to be with his girlfriend."

Woman killed on Friday

The deadly shooting was the second homicide in the city over the weekend. On Friday evening, 49-year-old Reagan Danielle Gross was found critically injured at a house on Hindley Avenue in the Worthington neighbourhood.
She was rushed to hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Kodey Lionel Trudeau, 34, was arrested at the scene and is charged with second-degree murder.

Police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver said Gross and Trudeau have lived at the home "at various times" but police do not believe they were couple and do not consider the crime to be a domestic incident.

Officers place evidence markers at the scene of a homicide outside of the Windsor Hotel in downtown Winnipeg on Sunday. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Mulhall says he knows nothing of the circumstances surrounding Ahmed's death.

"I just know what he meant to us and to the kids in our centre. In the short time he was with us, a few months, he had the largest impact on our people. Bringing in more sports oriented youth that wanted to come in."

He said he feels for the family and wishes there could have been a different outcome. He said programs like the one Ahmed helped lead, which provide a safe place for young people, are crucial.

"Just as recently as Friday we were talking about the fragility of life and I was just telling him what a great job and the impact he was having, a positive one, a very positive one on the kids at our centre."

Dozens of people turned up at the community circle Monday night.

"You can see from the turnout here, how well he was respected."

The investigation is continuing by members of the homicide unit and anyone with information is urged to call 204-986-6508. 

With files from Samantha Samson and Erin Brohman