An 18-year-old Ottawa man is dead and three other people remain in hospital in serious condition after a shooting at an Airbnb short-term rental in downtown Ottawa Wednesday morning, according to police.
Police are still searching for the suspected shooter and haven’t made any arrests in connection to what they believe was a targeted shooting on Gilmour Street — and Ottawa’s first homicide of 2020.
On Wednesday evening, police identified the person killed as Manyok Akol. The three other people who were injured are a 15-year-old boy and two young men, aged 19 and 20, police confirmed. Their names have not been released by the police service.
First responders descended on a home in the 400 block of Gilmour Street around 7:30 a.m. following reports of “multiple” gun shots.” Officers found four victims with gunshot wounds and one succumbed to injuries at the scene, acting inspector Francois D’Aoust told reporters near the site.
The 15-year-old boy was taken to CHEO, a pediatric hospital and research centre in Ottawa, according to a spokesperson for the hospital.
Late Wednesday afternoon, a spokesperson for Airbnb — a large online platform for listing and booking short-term rentals — confirmed the residence on Gilmour Street was listed on its website.
The company said it has deactivated listings associated with the address as it investigates the incident further and has also removed the booking guest from the platform.
“We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Gun violence is abhorrent, and our hearts go out to all who have been impacted. We are in close touch with city officials and with Ottawa Police Services to support their investigation,” said a statement from Airbnb spokesperson Ben Breit.
As of Wednesday evening, the section of Gilmour Street between Kent and Lyon streets remains taped off. Police are asking people to respect the safety perimeter that officers have set up “to protect the scene and the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”
Ottawa’s chief of police, Peter Sloly, said on Twitter that the service is keeping an increased police presence in the area while the investigation continues.
Four nearby French Catholic schools were placed on lockdown in the morning as a preventative measure. The lockdown was lifted shortly before 10:30 a.m., the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est tweeted.
The incident has no national security implications, major crime investigators later confirmed.
Investigators don’t have a description of the suspect and are urging anyone with information to come forward to police or send tips to Crime Stoppers.
Witnesses describe chaotic scene
Kacey Griffiths lives two houses down from the home where the victims were found. She said she didn’t hear gunshots but said the lights from the sirens as police arrived caught her attention.
“No one came out of the house with them. They came out with weapons down and all of a sudden, three ambulances showed up … and three people came out on stretchers very injured.”
Griffiths said she watched a paramedic work on one of the injured people and saw “a lot of blood.”
Griffiths, who has lived on Gilmour Street for about four years, said she’s familiar with her neighbours and didn’t recognize any of the people that were carried out on the stretchers.
Mark Ignatiev also lives nearby and told The Canadian Press that the home where the shooting took place is an Airbnb with units on two floors. Ignatiev said the shooting took place in the first-floor unit.
Ignatiev said he saw two people being taken out of the home on stretchers. One appeared to have a leg wound and the other a wound on his arm, he said. One of the men told police he was 20 years old, Ignatiev said.
He also said he watched police retrieve what looked like a gun from a neighbouring yard.
Ignatiev said the neighbourhood is colourful, and ambulances are common. The area, just west of busy Bank Street, is a mix of downtown single-family homes, duplexes and rowhouses and is sprinkled with taller apartments.
“This is a neighbourhood that has a lot of things happening,” he said.
Griffiths recalled another shooting incident that happened on the same street last May; that time, she did hear a gunshot, she said. Police didn’t report any injuries in that incident.
Josh Bueckert and Kate Headley, who have lived in the neighbourhood for five years, also told reporters that police and sirens are “not uncommon” in the area.
“It’s close to home, it’s a few blocks down for us,” Headley said of Wednesday morning’s incident.
“It’s a targeted shooting so it’s not that scary, but at the same time, it’s the increase gun violence in the city and if children, families are being hurt, that’s concerning for anyone, whether you live downtown or in Orléans or Barrhaven,” Headley said.
‘Enhanced’ street violence strategy coming next week, police chief says
Six people have been shot in Ottawa in the first eight days of 2020, according to Sloly. Wednesday’s fatality is the city’s first shooting death of the year.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Sloly said the police force will be announcing an “enhanced” plan to tackle street violence in the national capital.
“Street violence and firearms crimes in this and all cities are complex issues that will not be addressed by quick fix reactionary activities,” he wrote on Twitter.
“In the next week we will be announcing an enhanced overall strategy to better address street violence in the short term and will include longer term elements to better address related crime, social disorder, community safety and well-being issues.”
Mayor Jim Watson said he was briefed by police on the incident and called the shooting “terrible.” He expressed confidence in the police service and thanked paramedics for their efforts.
Premier Doug Ford reacted to the shooting in an unrelated interview with Global News on Wednesday, saying the province is in contact with Ottawa police and Ontario’s solicitor general is “all over this right now.”
The premier argued that “bail reform or judicial reform” is needed to better address the “absolutely senseless shootings” that happen in big cities like Ottawa and Toronto.
“We have to toughen up the laws and that’s up to the federal government, but we’re going to be requesting a lot tougher bail reform and judicial reform,” Ford said.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has spoken with Mayor Watson about the shooting and the ongoing investigation.
“My heart goes out to everyone affected, and I hope all those injured have a speedy recovery,” the prime minister wrote.
Catherine McKenney, the city councillor for the area, and Catherine McKenna, the MP for Ottawa Centre, both said they were in contact with Ottawa police after the shooting.
After learning the residence was listed on Airbnb, McKenney said the incident “drives home the fact that it’s not the type of tenure that you want in neighbourhoods.”
The City of Ottawa has ordered a notice of violation to Airbnb about the rental — but “it’s too late,” McKenney argued.
“It should have never been allowed on the platform to begin with,” she said.
City staff are working on a bylaw regulating short-term rentals in the national capital, but in the meantime, those rentals technically remain illegal.
McKenney said she plans to go door-knocking in the neighbourhood once police have cleared the crime scene and hopes to talk to as many residents as possible.
Earlier in the day, the councillor shared a list of resources for residents who need help or who want to offer their support to affected community members.
-With files from The Canadian Press