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Egan: ‘I could have died,’ mom says after bullet grazes her head

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Oni Joseph dodged a bullet Tuesday evening, and not in the poetic sense.

Better known as Oni The Haitian Sensation, the “slam poetry” champ was in her bedroom in the south end of Ottawa when a .45-calibre bullet flew by her head — so close, she said it left a powdered, “iridescent” residue on her forehead and grazed her son’s lower leg.

The bullet then deflected off a door frame, dented a piece of drywall and came to rest at the top of the carpeted stairs, below a map of Swaziland.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said Wednesday, still shaken and tired from going without sleep all night. “It more than frightened me. It was really traumatic.”

Joseph, 45, said she was in her second-floor bedroom at about 10:45 p.m., looking for materials connected to an online course for her son, Toussaint, 20.

Just as he came in the room, she began to hear a series of “popping” sounds, then something much louder, like a window shattering, then air rushing by her face. Pretty soon, she was “half on the ground” and reaching for her phone to call 911.

She said police were there within a few minutes and began to put yellow tape around her side yard, which connects to a wooded area that leads to the rear of a couple of businesses on Bank Street, south of Albion Road.

They would stay for hours.


Oni Joseph talks to a police officer with her son, Toussaint, on Wednesday, July 4, 2018.

Julie Oliver /

Postmedia

Ottawa police confirm they had reports of multiple shots being fired from the 2500 block of Bank and “numerous” shell casings were found. At least two detectives are working the case, including one who has gathered video surveillance from nearby businesses.

So far, no arrests have been made. It was at least the 50th shooting of the year in Ottawa.

It sounds implausible that Joseph was the target of the shooting, as there is no window on the wall that took the bullet hole. It pierced the vinyl siding and left a gouge in the interior drywall, right by a work table that contained art paint brushes in a Cookie Monster jar.

However, she’s suspicious about the circumstances, saying there were rocks thrown at her unit last year and she’s had a dispute with her landlord that is resulting in her eviction at the end of the month.

“Had I been standing up, I could have died. My son could have died.”

Joseph, a single mother of three boys in their early 20s, said she was told by police that seven shots were fired. A neighbour a few doors away, in fact, discovered what looked like bullet tracks in her siding and soffit, with a near-perfect circle in the cladding.


A closeup of the bullet that came through the wall.

Julie Oliver /

Postmedia

Joseph and two other neighbours said the adjacent car wash, a 24-hour, self-serve operation called Splash & Dash, has been the source of noise and loitering complaints because it’s sometimes used as a late-night hangout.


A Bank Street car wash behind Oni Joseph’s home. Joseph and two neighbours said it has been the source of noise and loitering complaints.

Julie Oliver /

Postmedia

(A spokesman for Coun. Diane Deans said community police officers told the ward office the car wash has been on their radar. The operators of the car wash could not be reached Wednesday.)

Joseph has been in the public eye on several fronts during the last 20 years. She has competed in spoken poetry contests around the world, published written work, advocated for a number of social issues, engaged in human rights projects and run unsuccessfully as a city councillor, in Bay ward in 2010.

“I want this solved,” she said of the shooting. Her next priority — with an Aug. 1 deadline — is to find a new place to live in what she hopes is a tranquil neighbourhood.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-726-5896 or email kegan@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/kellyegancolumn

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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