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Eric Osawe. (Family photo)
Eric Osawe. (Family photo)

Police shoot man who had tried to leave 'the ghetto life' Add to ...

In the months since he was released from prison, Eric Osawe had kept busy getting a job, playing basketball and spending time with his two children. In a bid to distance himself from his previous run-ins with police, he moved away from his old neighbourhood of Jane and Finch and into a third-floor suite at an upscale condominium complex near Bloor Street West and Kipling Avenue.

It was in that apartment that Mr. Osawe, 26, was fatally wounded early Wednesday morning during an altercation with police.

A group of officers with the Guns and Gang squad and the heavily armed Emergency Task Force arrived with a search warrant shortly after 1 a.m. A police firearm was discharged and Mr. Osawe was injured. He was taken to St. Michael's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 2:22 a.m.

His brother, 23-year-old Ebony Osawe, was arrested at the scene and charged with possession of a restricted firearm and several related charges.

The incident is being looked into by the Special Investigations Unit, which decides whether to lay charges against officers whenever someone is killed or seriously injured in police custody.

One officer is under investigation and 14 others are being questioned as witnesses, said SIU spokeswoman Monica Hudon.

Few other details were released on the incident, including the name or age of the officer, what led up to the shooting and whether more than one shot was fired.

Antonius Clarke, who first met the Nigerian-born Mr. Osawe when the two were elementary school pupils at Topcliff Public in Jane and Finch, remembered his friend for his love of hip hop and basketball, and his friendly demeanour.

"No matter what you were going through, he was always ready with a smile or to make a joke," Mr. Clarke said. He said he was close with his family, including his children, his brother and four sisters.

Mr. Osawe later attended Oakdale Park Middle School and C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute. He fathered two children and had entanglements with the law that eventually landed him in prison last year.

After he was released, Mr. Clarke, who works for Friends in Trouble, a non-profit group that helps at-risk youth, said he assisted his friend with paperwork and acted as a job reference. He said Mr. Osawe found a job and moved to the building in Etobicoke to distance himself from "the ghetto life."

"When young people come out of jail, there is no support to get them back into society," he said. "He had support - we tried our best and unfortunately the police got to him before we could fulfill our dreams with him."

Residents of the building were startled awake by the sound of the gunshot.

Julian Bell, 16, said had seen Mr. Osawe a couple of times at the building's gym and that he seemed like a nice guy.

"He just didn't seem like the kind of guy who was involved in gangs," he said.

Five investigators and three forensics officers from the SIU are working on the case.

Ebony Osawe, is facing charges of possession of a restricted firearm with ammunition, careless storage of a firearm, unauthorized possession of a firearm, careless storage of ammunition, and dangerous weapons. He is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday morning.

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