Ottawa·In Depth

'A hell of a year': reviewing an unusual time in Ottawa homicides

There were 24 homicides in Ottawa in 2016, making it one of the two deadliest years Ottawa police have seen in decades.

'We're hoping this is just an anomaly in the statistics and that it does slow down,' staff sergeant says

Ottawa police have been dealing with an unusual number of homicides this year. Only once, in 1995, has it been this bad. (CBC)

With 24 homicides this year — the average is 10 — it's been more than a little hectic in the offices of the Ottawa police major crimes unit.

"The mood here is, we've just got to keep going. I know people are tired, people are very tired. You're shifting from one case to another, and back and forth constantly, because your case load is heavy and you're helping out on other cases," says Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt, one of the two leaders of the unit.

"... We're just wondering if it's ever going to slow down. We're hoping this is just an anomaly in the statistics and that it does slow down for 2017. ... This has been a hell of a year. What can I say? It's been a hell of a ride."

In fact, this has been one of the two deadliest years the force has seen in 31 years, and it comes on the heels of four years of relative peace in the form of below-average homicide rates.

Only once since 1985 has it been this bad: the Ottawa Police Service is currently conducting a review of its historical homicide data, but the number of homicides in 1995 is thought to be somewhere between 23 and 25.

The major crimes unit has investigated an average of 10 homicides per year for the past 31 years, though the numbers can vary wildly. While there have been 24 this year, there were only two in 1998 and 2001.

Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt is one of the leaders of the major crimes unit, which primarily investigates homicides. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

'Random one-offs'

Whenever crime spikes the response from concerned residents and public officials alike is generally a call for a more police presence and patrols, especially in high-crime areas, and this year was no different.

But would more cruisers circling troubled neighbourhoods be the solution? Pirt isn't sure.

"I don't think so because we're not seeing — I'm not seeing — a connection with all of these homicides. If they were all gang homicides or something like that, then I'd say OK, we've got to do a big focus on that — and we do have to focus on gangs — but not all the homicides are connected at all. Some of them are, but very few of them are. They're just random one-offs, and how do you predict and deal with those? Well, I don't know," he said.

And it would be difficult to achieve. Pirt says major crimes is feeling thin alongside most other policing units.

"We have to toe that company line, we just have to do more with less, we've got no choice. Yeah, we feel short and we try to tap into other units to help us out, but pretty much now when a new homicide comes in the entire major crime office gets pulled in and we front-end load it and work it hard," Pirt said.

"Then we peel people off as we need, or as other cases demand. You've got to get back to your own case load."

By the numbers

  • 8 or 9: the number of cases with possible gang ties, according to Pirt.
  • 2: the number of cases with possible drug connections that don't appear directly tied to gang activity.
  • 7: the number of unsolved cases.
  • 12: the number of stabbings.
  • 12: the number of shootings.
  • 14: officers dedicated to the major crimes unit, currently down to 11.
  • 31: the number of unsolved cases dating back to 1985.

Street checks

Earlier in December, Ottawa police Supt. Don Sweet told CBC News this year's homicide rate could be the new normal, and added that incoming legislation on street checks — banning officers from randomly stopping people to collect personal information — will challenge officers.

For his part, Pirt isn't sure they're related.

"I'm not going to go out on a limb and say there's a correlation between the street checks and the number of murders. That's a bit of a stretch. Yes, the street check situation is going to have an impact on everybody across the organization ... but we're going to have to get around that," Pirt said.

"The reason for the murders? I can't figure this out. I don't know ... if we have a blip in the statistics or if this is the new norm."

Supt. Don Sweet says this year's high homicide rate could be the 'new normal' in Ottawa. (Roger Dubois/CBC News)

This year's cases

1. Mohamed Najdi, 28was shot to death in a targeted incident on the 100 block of Claremont Drive, near St. Laurent Boulevard and Hemlock Road, at about 10:40 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 10. Five people were charged with first-degree murder in April, and a sixth was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping later that month.

2. Marwan Arab, 20, was shot to death inside Shafia Restaurant at the Iris Plaza strip mall on Cobden Road on Sunday, Jan. 31, at about 5:30 p.m. His 22-year-old cousin was also shot but survived. In March, police announced that they were looking for the owner of a white Malibu seen in the area. No charges have been laid.

3. Mohamed Ali Hassan, 19was stabbed to death in Lawson Park, near King George and Isidore streets just steps from Queen Mary Street Public School, at about 9:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 22. The next day, 26-year-old Micheal Leblanc was charged with second-degree murder.

Marwan Arab, left, was shot dead and his cousin Ayyub Arab, right, survived being shot at Shafia Restaurant on Jan. 31. The case remains unsolved. (provided)

4. Taylor Morrow-Flint, 20was shot to death on the 80 block of Ritchie Street at about 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 2. In April, police released sketches of two men who might have been involved. No charges have been laid.

5. Nooredin Hassan, 20was shot to death while he was walking on Jasmine Crescent near Ogilvie Road at about 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8. No charges have been laid.

6. Christina Voelzing, 24was shot and critically injured at her Bells Corners home at about 5 a.m. on Sunday, March 27. She was taken to hospital and remained on life support until overnight Tuesday (March 29-30). Behnam Yaali, who she went to went to high school with, was identified as a suspect nearly three weeks later. He was arrested and charged with second-degree murder just hours afterward.

The shooting death of Nooredin Hassan on Jasmine Crescent on March 8 remains unsolved. (Supplied photo)

7. Lonnie Leafloor, 56was found dead at 1400 Lepage Ave., an Ottawa Community Housing apartment building, on Monday, May 2. The body had been there for several days. In October, Idris Abdulgani was charged with 1st-degree murder.

8. Nicholas Kim, 30was shot to death at 2750 Farriers Lane in Blossom Park just after 9:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 24. Katrina Galloway, in her 20s, was also shot but survived, suffering serious injuries. Her former partner, Jonathan Ranger, was identified by police as a suspect and was arrested in Thunder Bay in January 2017. No charges related to Kim's killing have been laid.

9. Tarique Leger, 19, who is believed to have been visiting Ottawa and is known to police in his native Montreal, was shot to death on St. Andrew Street on Sunday, July 10. Two cars were seen leaving the area. No charges have been laid.

Montreal resident Tarique Leger was shot and killed in Ottawa on July 10. His case remains unsolved. (Facebook)

10. Jeremy Mack, 36was stabbed multiple times on the 1-100 block of Winthrop Private, near the Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre, on Saturday, July 23. He was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead. A person was arrested at the scene but was later released after successfully arguing it was self defence. Ottawa police consider this case solved.

11. Omar Rashid-Ghader, 33was shot to death inside Sentral nightclub on Dalhousie Street just before 3:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14. An arrest warrant was issued for Mustafa Ahmed on a charge of second-degree murder. He was believed to be in the Greater Toronto Area. He has not yet been arrested.

12. Jacob Thompson, 40was shot on the 2100 block of Elmira Drive around 2 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Brianna Kennedy and Geneva Kennedy were each charged with being an accessory to murder after the fact. Geneva Kennedy was also charged with obstructing police, which she pleaded guilty to. The other charges against Brianna and Geneva Kennedy were withdrawn. Geneva Kennedy's 19-year-old son, Brayton Kennedy, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder in April 2017. After her son's court appearance, Geneva Kennedy was arrested again and charged with two counts of intimidation by threat, one count of assault and two counts of failing to comply with a probation order.

Mustafa Ahmed, pictured here, is wanted by police on a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Omar Rashid-Ghader on Aug. 14. He remains at large. (Ottawa Police)

13. Abdi Jama, 26was shot multiple times behind a strip mall on Shillington Avenue and Merivale Road just after 6 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25. He was then driven to the nearby Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, then transported to the Civic, where he was pronounced dead. No charges have been laid.

14. Mitch Paquette, 55was stabbed on Rosenthal Avenue at about 6:15 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. Daniel Adjetey-Nelson was charged with first-degree murder in the death of his children's grandfather.

15. Kayla Sullivan, 30, was stabbed on the west side of the Salvation Army Booth Centre at 171 George St. at about 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 14. She was taken to hospital, where she was pronounced dead. A man in his 30s was also stabbed in the chest and taken to hospital in serious condition. Peter Herauf was charged with first-degree murder.

Abdi 'Ajax' Jama was shot multiple times on Sept. 25. His case remains unsolved. (Snapchat)

16. Joshua Briere, 26, was stabbed several times at 1098 Clyde Ave. at about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Brandon Ethier was charged with second-degree murder.

17. Solomon Odekunle​, 21, was stabbed to death at the intersection of St. Laurent Boulevard and Ogilive Road at about 2:30 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6. Joe Bryan Ndikuriyo was charged with second-degree murder.

18 and 19. Dave Rogers, 69, and Merrill Gleddie Rogers, 63, were found stabbed to death in the backyard of their home at 1614 Apeldoorn Ave. at about 10:20 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 28. They had been killed about two weeks earlier. Their son, Cameron Rogers, was charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Former Ottawa Citizen reporter Dave Rogers and his wife Merrill Gleddie Rogers were found stabbed to death in the backyard of their home on Nov. 28. Their son, Cameron Rogers, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. (Wayne Cuddington/Ottawa Citizen)

20. Leslie Mwakio, 17, was found shot in an SUV parked on Bayswater Avenue at about 10:40 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No charges have been laid.

21. Lee John Joseph Germain, 32, was shot to death at 571 McLeod St. just before 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10. A Canada-wide warrant was issued for 33-year-old Steven Frenette on a charge of first-degree murder, and he turned himself in on Dec. 16.

22. Abdullah Al-Tutunji, 20, was stabbed to death outside a McDonald's on Meadowlands Drive E. at about 2:45 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 11. Jorden Larocque-Laplante, also 20, was charged with second-degree murder.

23 and 24. Nasiba A-Noor, 29, and Asma A-Noor, 32were stabbed to death at a home on McCarthy Road near Paul Anka Drive at about 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 16. Their brother, 29-year-old Musab A-Noor, was charged with one count of first-degree murder in Asma's death and one count of second-degree murder in Nasiba's death.

Abdullah Al-Tutunji, pictured here, was stabbed to death on Dec. 11. Jorden Larocque-Laplante is charged with second-degree murder. (Facebook)