Ottawa

Family grapples with grief after 2nd son gunned down

Less than two years before Mouhamed Serhan, 24, was shot and killed on Monday, his younger brother, Hamzeh, died the same way. Their only surviving sibling says it's almost too much for the family to bear.

Mouhamed Serhan, 24, killed Monday less than 2 years after younger brother died

Ottawa police say the shootings of Mouhamed Serhan, left, on Sunday and his brother, Hamzeh Serhan, right, in 2017 were unrelated. (Supplied)

Kadijah Serhan's petite frame shudders as she stands on the spot where her younger brother was shot and killed on Monday night.

Mouhamed Serhan, 24, collapsed on this pathway that cuts through a strip of row houses on Heatherington Road, just steps from his accused killer's backyard.

His death brought a painful sense of déjà vu for Kadijah Serhan, 27, who has now lost two brothers in less than two years to gun violence in Ottawa.

[My parents] left our homeland for a better living, and look what happened here. They lost their kids.- Kadijah Serhan

"I can't believe for the second time I'm facing this," she said through tears.

Serhan insisted on visiting the site this week after finalizing plans for her brother's funeral.

"I'm going to have to take my brother ... to Beirut to bury him beside my youngest brother," she said.

In 2017, Hamzeh Serhan was gunned down on Caldwell Avenue. He was just 20.

The double tragedy has been almost too much for the family to bear, Kadijah Serhan said.

"[My parents] left our homeland for a better living, and look what happened here. They lost their kids."

Lives cut short

Serhan said she and her brothers were born in Canada but raised in Lebanon until 2006, when they returned to Ottawa. Her parents were civil engineers and wanted their children to graduate from Canadian universities.

Mouhamed Serhan decided to study economics at Carleton University, while his younger brother enrolled in pre-medical courses at the University of Ottawa. Hamzeh Serhan dreamed of finding a cure for cancer, said his sister, the oldest of the three siblings.

Mouhamed Serhan was pronounced dead in hospital after being shot in Ottawa's Heatherington neighbourhood on Sunday.

Kadijah Serhan said her brothers liked playing sports and were both honour students, though only she would graduate with a degree.

In 2016 both brothers were arrested for drug possession and trafficking, but according to court records those charges were later withdrawn.

Brother's death brought on depression

A year after his arrest, Hamzeh Serhan was shot to death in broad daylight.

Kadijah Serhan said that sent Mouhamed into a deep depression. He dropped out of university in his fourth year and isolated himself from friends, she said.

Aaron Alais hired Mouhamed to work for his moving company during the day while Alais's mother hired him to work as a cook in her Mediterranean restaurant.

Alais told CBC Mouhamed, who had been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, was often in pain but worked through it. Mouhamed was "loved," and often spoke about how much he missed his younger brother, Alais said.

"He kept telling us that he wanted to reunite with his brother, he missed him dearly," Alais wrote in a text message exchange.

Mouhamed Serhan's final moments

After taking a short holiday to Lebanon to visit his father, who works in Beirut, Mouhamed Serhan returned to Ottawa on May 14. According to his sister, Mouhamed had enrolled in summer courses at Carleton.

"He wanted to finish his bachelor degree for my parents," Kadijah said. "To give them some hope."

Mouhamed Serhan spent Monday fasting for Ramadan, then shared an iftar meal with his mother and sister after sundown, bringing his sister her favorite pizza and sweets. They then he went to visit a childhood friend.

The 911 calls about a shooting at 1485 Heatherington Rd. came in at 10:40 p.m.

Ottawa police have charged Idris Ismail with second-degree murder. Family and friends say Mouhamed Serhan didn't know his alleged killer, and was visiting someone else who lives in the Heatherington neighbourhood.

Ismail may be in police custody, but Hamzeh Serhan's alleged killer is still on the loose. In 2017, a Canada-wide arrest warrant was issued for Farah Handule, who investigators believe is in hiding somewhere in the Greater Toronto Area.

Kadijah Serhan said this latest killing opens old wounds for the family, as well as inflicting new ones.

"We're alive, but we're not normal."

A funeral service for Mouhamed Serhan will be held Friday at Imam Ali Mosque on Walkley Road, after which his body will be flown to Lebanon and buried next to his younger brother.