The brother of Eric Hewer says he accepts the 19-year-old shared blame in an altercation with three teenage boys in July, but questions why it had to cost him his life.
Eric was out celebrating his 19th birthday with a friend in Ottawa on the warm evening of July 26, when a confrontation with three teenagers on e-scooters — ages 15, 16 and 17, respectively — broke out when Eric's friend made what police said was a driver error and they began pursuing each other over a number of blocks.
It deteriorated into a physical confrontation among the teens and ended with Eric stabbed in the stomach and through his heart. He died almost instantly.
Ottawa police homicide detectives announced Wednesday they would not be charging the 16-year-old boy who fatally stabbed Eric, saying they believe the teen acted in self-defence.
"All parties involved here played a role in Eric's death, including him," said his brother, Brendon Hewer.
Brendon, 27, said he won't defend his brother's actions but wonders whether there would have been a different outcome had one of the teenagers not had a weapon.
"I do believe that if that person was not carrying a knife that day that this simply would have been assault charges, probably on both people because everybody had an opportunity to leave, everybody pursued one another, and Eric was the one that paid the ultimate price," he said.
Teens continued altercation for 20 blocks
Brendon said he was kept updated by the lead homicide detective on the case, right up until police decided not to pursue charges after consulting with prosecutors.
The following is an account of what happened that night, pieced together from details provided by Brendon and from sources with knowledge of the case.
It started as a case of what some might call "road rage" between people meant to share the road.
The altercation between the two groups began, according to sources, after the teens hopped on e-scooters in the direction of Rideau Station from Lansdowne.
According to Brendon, Eric was riding as a passenger in the car while his friend, who was also injured in the double stabbing, was driving the car. CBC News is not naming the friend.
Brendon said he was told by police the two groups first clashed after a driver error by Eric's friend, which sparked 20 blocks of continuous back-and-forth confrontation between the teens on the scooters and the men inside the vehicle.
CBC News has not heard the accounts of the teens, nor been able to contact their lawyers.
That back and forth included the scooter riders cutting the vehicle off, insults and curses thrown from both groups, a verbal confrontation that saw Eric get out of the vehicle before getting back in as well as an attempt by Eric's friend, who was driving the car, to reverse and leave, Brendon said.
Assailant fled but returned to defend friend
Eventually, both groups came to the area of Metcalfe and Albert streets where Eric and his friend got out of the car after the teens made a gesture threatening to throw rocks at the vehicle, Brendon said he was told by police.
The two men approached one of the teens and physically assaulted him, he said. His brother punched the 17-year-old in the face and was met with the same in return, Brendon said. Eric and his friend then had one of the teens on the ground, which is when Eric's friend kicked the teen in the shoulder, Brendon said.
According to sources, the 16-year-old boy fled once the physical confrontation began but returned after seeing his friend being beaten.
Brendon says he was told by police that the 16-year-old pulled out a "pocket knife," a single-blade folding knife, and stabbed Eric's friend in the stomach. Eric, with fists raised, then approached the 16-year-old, who then stabbed him once in the stomach and once in the chest, Brendon said.
Both Eric and his friend were unarmed, Brendon said. He doesn't want his brother remembered as a violent monster and instead calls it a tragedy involving five teenagers.
"He made a mistake that day, but so did everybody else, and he didn't deserve to lose his life," said Brendon.
'He didn't have to die'
Since 2016, Ottawa police have declined to lay charges in only two homicide cases because they concluded they were cases of self-defence, according to CBC records of all Ottawa homicide cases and charges.
Detectives consulted with prosecutors on Wednesday and told Brendon that even if they were to lay a charge, there would be no reasonable prospect of conviction, he said.
Brendon said it's tragic to think his young brother's life was cut short just when it was getting started. He had been working at a local hardware store in Nova Scotia, where work opportunities are few and far between, when he decided to move to Ottawa to start a new job. A move that Brendon, too, once made with the same goal.
"[Eric] went away to better his life and make good money," his brother said. "It's just a tragedy. And he didn't have to die that day. He didn't have to die.
"Everybody lost that day, including the person who stabbed my brother. Nobody won."