There is a white plastic bag of fruit on the table in Chou William’s cramped room. Some of the once bright orange clementines have turned gray and dull due to mold. But he won’t touch them – they belong to his friend Omar, and until he sees his body he refuses to believe he’s gone.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Police watchdog was called to Regatta Plaza on the east side of St. John’s on June 12 for what they called an officer-involved shooting that killed a man and killed an officer of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary was injured. The officer was treated in hospital and released the next day.
That same morning, William said his fellow Sudanese-Canadian roommate, Omar Mohammed, showered, had breakfast and left wearing headphones and a backpack.
Mohammed, 38, has been living with him since June 1 in a small bungalow with several rented bedrooms on the west side of St. John’s. For days, William said, he slept on the floor—the only space left—while Muhammad kept his bed.
“Omar needed a place to stay, that’s why he died. He went to collect his check, rent check,” William said in an interview Tuesday.
“He needed a rent check to stay here with me in this little room.”
Mohammed would get a check from the government to pay the nanny’s landlord while William looked for work.
But Mohammed never returned.
‘Where’s Omar? What happened to him? Nobody told me the truth,” said William.
William said he was concerned after not hearing from Mohammed for hours. Then someone told him to check the news.
“They said your friend was shot. I said, ‘No, I don’t know, it’s not Omar.’ He said, ‘Yes, you have to be sure, friend.'”
Soon after, William said he called 911.
“Someone left and didn’t come back. I told the police that this man has a mental problem, he left my house and didn’t come back. I heard rumors that someone was shot – was it him or not?” William said, adding that the person he spoke to told him they would call him back, but didn’t.
William said that on Monday, a week after the shooting, he received a call from a member of SIRT-NL who had made an appointment for Wednesday. He suspects that he will be officially told what happened.
Waiting for funeral
SIRT-NL said last Tuesday it would not disclose further details until Mohammed’s next of kin had been notified. But William and other members of the Sudanese community who spoke to Breaking: reject the idea that his non-biological family could not also be notified, given that Muhammad arrived in Canada without any other family and was largely supported by fellow former refugees.
They say they are sad that Mohammed has not yet been buried. A member of the Sudanese community who tracked down living relatives in a refugee camp in Chad, a country in north-central Africa, said they have not yet been notified.
‘I want to see him. I need to make sure this is Omar,’ William said. “And at that point I will tell my community that Omar is dead. The community will come together and bury him.”
In the corner of the bedroom the two men shared, all that is left of Mohammed is: blankets, a folding chair and a black jacket.
His death not only marks the end of a life, William said, but the loss of the years of effort he and doctors have put into keeping his friend sane and his mind occupied with the horrors of the war he left behind.
“He always cried alone. You would see him, Omar is good, suddenly he cried and suddenly he loved and then suddenly he was talking to himself, just like that. Suddenly he could be quiet for a long time. Don’t even say a word,” said William.
Mohammed was a child soldier in Darfur, a war-torn region in Western Sudan where hundreds of thousands of people have died. Millions more have been displaced since the early 2000s. Mohammed later fled to a refugee camp in Ghana and remained there for three years before being designated a refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Mohammed came to St. John’s in 2014. But William said he was consumed by the death he had witnessed and the violence still taking place and asked to be repatriated to Sudan two years ago.
“I told him Canada is safe, stay here in Canada, we will try, doctors, everyone will do our best to make you a good person and forget what happened and start a new life,” said William.
“I didn’t know they were going to kill him. What is the difference? They’ll kill him in Darfur and they’ll kill him here.’
What happened in the building of the provincial employment service has not been made public.
RNCA provides support to members
Mohammed had a criminal record, was known to the police and was wanted under a warrant for violating court orders. However, it’s not immediately clear if he died while police were trying to carry out the order, or if they were called to the office for some other reason.
In a statement late Friday, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Association called the situation a tragedy for all involved and for the community.
“The use of deadly force is an aspect of policing that should never be taken lightly and we are cooperating fully with the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) in investigating the incident,” said the statement, signed by RNCA President Staff Sgt . Mike Summers.
“As an association, we are also committed to working with our members during this difficult period to ensure they receive the necessary support following a potentially traumatic situation.”
In an email Tuesday, SIRT-NL director Michael King said there was no new update to his investigation.
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