A shooting at an Ottawa wedding on Saturday night left two men dead and six more injured, with guests describing how they hid in the kitchens of a convention centre to escape a young man with a gun.
Ottawa police said they had not yet apprehended a suspect but sped to the scene near the airport after reports of shots fired at about 10:21 p.m. Saturday night.
Paramedics said they rushed the injured – including two men with fatal bullet wounds – to hospital after several people were shot in the parking lot outside the wedding reception
On Sunday, Ottawa Police named the dead men as 26-year-old Said Mohamed Ali, and 29-year-old Abdishakur Abdi-Dahir, both from Toronto.
“This is an active and ongoing investigation. All investigative angles are being explored,” it said in a statement, adding there was no indication the killings were hate-motivated.
The wedding reception, attended by members of the Somali community from Ottawa and beyond, took place at the Infinity Convention Centre, which offers wedding packages with open-concept ballrooms and private bridal suites.
On Sunday, the parking lot where the shooting took place was cordoned off by yellow police tape, with bullet casings and blood spots identified with evidence markers. There was still a strong police presence with Ottawa’s homicide investigation unit, some with gloves and cameras, collecting forensic evidence.
Ottawa police chief Eric Stubbs was among those at the scene on Sunday. He said in an interview on CTV news late Sunday that a connection with “guns and gangs” was being examined by police. He said police were reviewing video surveillance from nearby businesses.
Shaken wedding guests returned on Sunday to try to retrieve their cars from the parking lot but some were told by police to not remove them because they could disturb evidence.
One woman, invited by the bride’s mother, said she had heard gunshots from outside the centre, which she initially thought may have been part of the music. She then saw a man in his 20s come in through the doors with a gun raised in his hand chasing another man.
She said she and other guests hid in the kitchens and the doors were locked to keep the gunman out. Others hid in storage areas, she said, to try to escape the mayhem.
The guest, who The Globe is not naming because she said she had safety fears, said there were around 180 to 200 guests at the Somali wedding. She said she had heard the shooting was gang-related.
“I saw one guy open the door with a gun in his hand chasing someone. He was a young boy, very young – age 25, 26 – chasing someone. One boy is trying to come inside. We went to the kitchen and locked the doors,” she said. “In 25 years in Ottawa I’ve never seen this kind of thing before. It was like a movie. Until now I didn’t stop shaking.”
In the Hampton Inn hotel next to the convention centre, Anita Karp, who was visiting family in Ottawa, said she and her family came back on Saturday night to find a group of wedding guests sheltering in the entrance of the hotel. She said she was told a wounded person had staggered into the hotel bleeding.
Ms. Karp, who is from Vancouver, said she had not expected to find such violence in the capital, and had to step around blood spots on the floor in the hotel entrance.
“We saw drops of blood and someone said someone came in and the person was saying ‘I’m dying, I’m dying,’” said Ms. Karp. “It was unsettling for my granddaughter who is just 14.”
Ottawa Police Duty Acting Inspector Amy Bond said the investigation is still at its early stages – including on how many people were implicated. She made a plea to people, including those near the 2900 block of Gibford Drive where the shooting took place, to come forward if they have information or evidence.
“Investigators continue to seek any surveillance, doorbell or dashcam footage from residents, visitors and businesses who may have been in the area at the time of the incident,” Ottawa police said in a statement.
Ottawa paramedics said they arrived at the crime scene at 10:22 p.m. on Saturday night to find “multiple patients shot.”
“Paramedics transported 6 patients to the hospital, including 2 adult males in critical life threatening condition. All others sustained non-life-threatening injuries. Other patients presented themselves to the hospital,” said Marc-Antoine Deschamps, superintendent, public information, in an e-mail.
People living in the nearby row of neat bungalows with manicured lawns, in Ottawa’s Hunt Club South neighbourhood, told The Globe they heard multiple gunshots on Saturday night.
The killings are the 11th and 12th homicides in Ottawa so far this year.