Weeks after a Winnipeg Police Service inspector suggested that the city shut the entire establishment down, gunfire broke out in the entryway of the Windsor Hotel just before 3 a.m. Sunday, leaving three men shot, one fatally.
The bar had already served its last drink of the night, and Wayne Towns, who's owned the venerable downtown establishment since 2010, wasn't around. By all accounts, Towns said Monday, it had been a normal, unremarkable day at the inn.
Until it wasn't.
A group of people — none of whom lived at the hotel, Towns said — made their way into the building's unlocked vestibule, and soon, a fight broke out, spilling into the neighbouring parking lot: three men were shot and taken to hospital, where one of them, 20-year-old Yassin Abdu Ahmed, died, police say. Ahmed is the second person in the city to die by homicide so far in 2020.
Xavier Smith, who mentored a teenaged Ahmed in SWISH, a Basketball Manitoba summer program for inner-city kids, said he was an intelligent, funny kid who was driven to make a positive impact on his community. After moving to Winnipeg in 2010, Ahmed and his family lived in the North End.
"Words really can't define or explain someone's life," Smith said. "He was a positive kid who had a lot of potential."
The Spence Neighbourhood Association held a memorial gathering Monday night for Ahmed, who worked at the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre.
Opened under a different name in 1903, the Windsor became an established music venue, but in recent months, it's been a frequent stop for the Winnipeg Police Service, whose headquarters are a short walk away.
Over a three-day span last November, cops had seized several firearms, cash, and over $20,000 worth of illicit drugs; during the same span, a woman was hit in the barroom with the butt-end of a shotgun and threatened at gunpoint. That stretch led WPS Insp. Max Waddell to ponder the merit of pulling the Windsor's liquor licence, and suggesting its closure would be "a move in the right direction."
"(The Windsor) has been on our radar and continues to be on our radar," Const. Rob Carver of the WPS said Monday. He said police believe the incident began at the hotel, but he didn't specify whether the people involved were patrons or if they'd been guests.
For some residents and frequent patrons of the hotel and bar, the violence was startling, but not entirely unexpected.
Mat Perlman, the venue's former music booker, worked at the Windsor for six years before leaving for other opportunities in 2019. He said that like most bars, guests sometimes got rambunctious, but it didn't usually escalate to the point of violence.
"It was a little rough at times, but to the degree we've been hearing about over the last little while... it was nothing like that," he said.
Towns didn't dispute that police presence at the hotel had been higher of late: he said officers have recently stopped by once every few days to check on the bar and the 43 residents who pay a monthly rent. However, he was quick to point out that none of the people involved in the shooting stayed there, and to his knowledge, none had been in the bar earlier that night.
"Most residents have been here five to ten years," Towns said, sitting a few feet away from a window cracked by a pair of inch-wide bulletholes. "This was an aberration," he added.
"Typical downtown," said Gord Haywood, 67, who's lived at the Windsor for over a year.
Carver said the two other men who were shot are now in stable condition, but the police have yet to make any arrests in connection with Ahmed's death. Those with information relevant to the investigation are asked to contact 204-986-6508, or Crime Stoppers at 204-786-8477.
Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.
OTTAWA — Sunday’s deadly shooting has city council’s safety head calling for a national ban on handguns, an idea Winnipeg police are again brushing aside.
“I think we need a national ban,” said councillor Sherri Rollins, who chairs the council committee on protection, community services and parks.
The “really sad and shocking” shooting happened in Rollins’ ward, and she said its time Ottawa put forward measures to monitor bulk sales and centralize the reporting of firearms that are used in crimes or confiscated by police.
She also wants all handguns banned nationwide.
Yet instead of a cross-country ban, the federal Liberals have pledged to allow cities to prohibit handguns in their municipalities. The office of Public Safety Minister Bill Blair noted that “different cities will have different needs,” and wouldn’t specify a timeline on when he intends to put forward legislation or regulations.
“This will let communities choose what makes sense for them, not the federal government,” wrote spokeswoman Brittany Perreault, who noted Blair has spoken about the issue with Mayor Brian Bowman.
“Protecting the health and safety of all Canadians is a top priority for our government, and we are deeply concerned about the increase in violence across Winnipeg.”
Rollins wasn’t sure how many councillors would support a city ban, but said she hoped the Liberals will give them the option soon. “I want it to be a swift election promise completed,” she said.
Premier Brian Pallister said last November he was open to the idea, but had been awaiting more information.
However, Const. Rob Carver called it “just nonsense” to believe any ban would improve safety, because virtually all seized handguns have been illegally obtained.
"I simply don't see, as a 27-year veteran, how adding another layer of law will make any difference anywhere in this country,” he told reporters.
“It might make some people feel good, but it will not change the threat level one iota.”
Rollins also wants the province to take up more of its federal anti-gang allocation and channel it to social and preventive programming, like after-school activities.
So far, the Pallister government has tapped $2.3 million of its $13 million allocation, all of which is being used to beef up police activity.
Rollins said she’s dipped into her office budget to support tattoo removals for Gang Action Interagency Network, and has helped other groups apply for grants.
“I’m doing all that I can, including funding things that sometimes, as a city actor, I shouldn't be backstopping.”
A provincial spokeswoman noted that “nearly 20 per cent” of the profits from the province’s criminal-property forfeiture in this fiscal year has gone to “community initiatives via partnerships with law enforcement” as has half of a similar fund from federal prosecutions, making up a combined $650,000.
— Dylan Robertson, with files from Jessica Botelho-Urbanski and Ben Waldman
Winnipeg's first homicide victim of 2020 is a 49-year-old woman killed Friday night in her St. Vital home.
At about 6:15 p.m., police arrived at a house on the 100 block of Hindley Avenue, where they found Reagan Danielle Gross in critical condition. Gross was taken to hospital, where she was pronounced deceased.
A 34-year-old man, Kodey Lionel Trudeau, was arrested at the scene and later charged with second-degree murder.
Const. Rob Carver of the Winnipeg Police Service said it's believed both Trudeau and Gross were residents of the house, however, they were not thought to be partners. At most, he said, they had a "roommate relationship."
"This is not coming together like a domestic (violence) situation," Carver said Monday.
No weapon had been recovered, Carver said, adding there were details about the incident he couldn't yet say publicly.
"A gun was not involved," he said.
Trudeau has been detained in custody.
Updated on Tuesday, January 14, 2020 at 7:20 AM CST: Changes headline