One man has been charged and a second person is still wanted in connection with a fire lit inside an Ottawa apartment building in February, but police say there’s no evidence connecting the accused to the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that was happening at the time.
Surveillance footage of the Feb. 6 incident showed two men entering the lobby of the Lisgar Street apartment building shortly before 5 a.m., taping the front doors shut, and attempting to set fire to the building using firestarters.
A passerby managed to extinguish the flames before they spread.
Ottawa police launched an arson investigation and identified two persons of interest shown in the tape.
On Monday, police said they had charged Connor Russell McDonald, a 21-year-old man from Ottawa, with possessing incendiary material and two counts of arson — one causing property damage and one for disregard of human life. He is also charged with two counts of mischief, one specifically for endangering life.
A second suspect is still wanted by police.
Residents of the apartment building who spoke to Global News at the time described the incident as a “terrifying experience” and said tensions were heightened in the neighbourhood at the time due to the nearby trucker convoy, which was in the second week of its downtown occupation.
Those who lived in the downtown core reported experiences of harassment and disturbances including excessive honking during the demonstration, which ultimately lasted three weeks before police moved in to break up the encampment.
Apartment dwellers said that the fire broke out shortly after an argument between residents and demonstrators and one witness who spoke to the men said they identified themselves as being part of the protest. Ottawa’s mayor was also among those linking the incident to the convoy.
But police said in a statement accompanying the arrest Monday that “there is no information indicating McDonald was involved in any way with the convoy protest which was going on when this arson took place.”
A police spokesperson told Global News they could not speculate on the second suspect’s association while the man is at large.
Police have continued to lay charges in connection with the convoy occupation in the weeks since the demonstration ended.
— with files from Global News’s Amanda Connolly