Ottawa·In Depth

Gang violence drove 2018's high homicide rate, police say

For yet another year, the number of homicides in Ottawa was higher than normal, and police say gang activity is playing an increasingly large role.

'We're actually catching up with the size of city we are,' Ottawa police staff sergeant says

Ottawa police Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt is one of two leaders of the force's major crime unit, which investigates homicides. (Radio-Canada)

For yet another year, the number of homicides in Ottawa was higher than normal, and police say gang activity is playing an increasingly large role.

There were 16 killings in the city in 2018, up from 14 killings in 2017, but down from 24 in 2016.

Six of those 16 homicides are suspected of being gang-related, according to major crime unit Staff Sgt. Bruce Pirt. When police describe a case as gang-related, it means at least one person believed to be connected to the case may have ties to gangs.

"It's playing a bigger and bigger role every year, and it's something we have to deal with. We work closely with our guns and gangs section and our intelligence section," he said.

From 1985 to 2005 there were, on average, about 10 homicides in Ottawa per year. But in the years since 2005, the average annual rate has crept up to about 12.

The rise in killings coincides with an increasing number of shootings, with six of the past eight years, including 2018, bringing new record highs.

Map of this year's homicides

Can't see the map? View it here.


2018 by the numbers

  • 2 people facing murder charges from last year are still on the lam.
  • 8 were shootings.
  • 5 were beatings.
  • 5 unsolved killings last year.
  • 40 unsolved killings dating back to 1985.

'A complete mystery'

Five of last year's slayings are unsolved. Of those, police say the biggest mystery is the shooting of 49-year-old Opiny P'Ochieng, whose body was found near Russell Road and Southvale Crescent at about 3:40 a.m. on Saturday, May 5.

He was captured on surveillance video buying cigarettes at a convenience store on Montreal Road around 3 a.m., then turned up dead about 30 minutes later, six kilometres away.

"We have no idea what it's related to. He had no drug involvement, no gang connections, anything.... It's a complete mystery as to how he got there and why someone killed him," Pirt said.

"I would love to get to the bottom of the Opiny P'Ochieng murder. That one is just bugging the heck out of me."

On May 5, 2018, 49-year-old Opiny P'Ochieng was found shot to death near Russell Road and Southvale Crescent. Multiple police appeals for information in the case have so far turned up nothing.


This year's cases in brief

1. Tarek Dakhil, 23, was found shot around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 9, in a courtyard at 3339 Paul Anka Dr. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. No arrests have been made. Investigators believe the killing is gang-related.

2. Nicholas "Nick" Hickey, 17, was struck and killed by a vehicle on Seyton Drive near Hammill Court at about 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 17. Guillermo Escobedo-Hoyo, 37, was charged with second-degree murder. The case remains before the courts.

Ali Omar Mohamed, 20, is charged with second-degree murder but remains at large. (Ottawa Police Service)

3. Adam Perron, 22, was shot inside an apartment at 125 McLeod St. on Thursday, Jan. 18, at about 6 a.m. He was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. On Jan. 30, police issued an arrest warrant for Ali Omar Mohamed, 20, on a charge of second-degree murder. Mohamed remains at large.

4. Gerald Leduc, 53, died in hospital on Thursday, Jan. 18, after being in a coma for six months following an assault on Selkirk Street on July 18, 2017. On Feb. 23, police issued an arrest warrant for Marco Michaud, 36, on a charge of second-degree murder, and Michaud later turned himself in. While in jail, Michaud was badly beaten and later succumbed to his injuries (see case no. 11 below).

5. Safaa Marina, 53, was shot to death by her husband, 54-year-old Touni Marina, inside the couple's home at 84 MacFarlane Rd. at about 1:30 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 4. Touni then killed himself.

Touni Marina, left, shot and killed Safaa Marina, right, at their home, and then killed himself. (Facebook)

6. Maria Desousa, 81, was beaten and then brought to an Ottawa hospital, where she was pronounced dead, on Saturday, Feb. 10. The woman, from out of town, had been staying with relatives on Parkrose Private in Orléans. On Feb. 13, her son, 40-year-old Paulo Desousa, and his girlfriend, 36-year-old Danielle Leblanc, were each charged with first-degree murder. The case remains before the courts.

7. Egal Daud, 30, was found dead in his parked car along Northview Road at about 10 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 11. He had been shot to death, but it's unclear precisely when or where Daud was shot. His family said they had been searching for him for five days before his body was found. No arrests have been made. Investigators believe the killing is gang-related.

Egal Daud, 30, was found dead inside a vehicle in Nepean on Feb. 11, 2018. His killing remains unsolved. (Supplied)

8. Kalen Bryan-Bradley, 23, was found stabbed to death in a car parked outside the Walmart at Billings Bridge Shopping Centre on Sunday, March 4. Mall staff called 911 after seeing 25-year-old Miles Krzyzewski walking in the mall with injuries. Police were then directed to the car. Krzyzewski was charged with second-degree murder. The case remains before the courts.

9. Brian Scollard, 36, was stabbed to death during an alleged home invasion at 11 Covington Pl. in Centrepointe at about 9:10 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28. A man in his 20s was arrested but was later released without charges. His lawyer said he acted in self defence when two people burst into his home. Police are still investigating.

10. Marco Michaud, 36, was beaten at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre on Wednesday, April 11, and succumbed to his injuries in hospital on Friday, May 4. Mohamed Barkhadle, 32, Pierre Senatus, 22, and Jimmy St-Hilaire, 19, were initially charged with attempted murder. Those charges were later upgraded to first-degree murder, and a fourth accused, Yaheya Benamiar, was also charged. The case remains before the courts. Investigators believe the killing is gang-related.

Marco Michaud, charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Gerald Leduc, turned himself in. Michaud was badly beaten in jail while waiting for his case to wind its way through the courts, and he died in hospital a few weeks later. Three men are facing charges of first-degree murder in Michaud's killing. (Ottawa police)

11. Opiny P'Ochieng, 49, was found shot to death near Russell Road and Southvale Crescent at about 3:40 a.m. on Saturday, May 5. Police have been trying to retrace his final movements, but remain in the dark about the final half-hour of his life. No arrests have been made.

12. Elisabeth Salm, 59, was found badly beaten in the reading room at the First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 141C Laurier Ave. W. in downtown Ottawa at about 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 24. She died in hospital on Friday, May 25. Tyler Hikoaluk, 18, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. The case remains before the courts.

In May, Ottawa police issued an arrest warrant for Tristan Campbell on a charge of second-degree murder. Campbell remains at large. (Ottawa Police Service)

13. Abdifatah Osman, 31, was shot to death during a backyard barbecue at 5 Patola Pvt. at about 7:20 p.m. on Sunday, May 27. A woman was also injured. An arrest warrant was issued for Tristan Campbell, 34, on a charge of second-degree murder. Campbell remains at large.

14. Mohamad Mana, 30, was found dead in a room at the Residence Inn by Marriott on Walkley Road at about 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15. An arrest warrant was issued for Crystal Bastien, 32, on a charge of first-degree murder, and she later turned herself in. Police later arrested a second woman, Tamara Bahlawan, 25, and charged her with first-degree murder. The case remains before the courts. Police continue to seek two as-yet unidentified males in connection to the killing. Investigators believe the killing is gang-related.

15. Toronto's Guled Ahmed, 23, was found shot to death off Carruthers Avenue, between Scott Street and Lyndale Avenue, at about 3:40 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 29. No arrests have been made. Investigators believe the killing is gang-related.

16. Yonis Barkhadle, 27, was shot in a parking lot at the South Keys Shopping Centre at about 6:27 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 23. No arrests have been made. Investigators believe the killing is gang-related.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story identified the homicides Ottawa police have classified as gang-related. To add further clarity to the story, CBC added a definition of the term. And since any connections to gangs haven't yet been proven, we've indicated that investigators believe the cases to be gang-related.
    Mar 08, 2019 4:30 PM ET