Four years ago this month, Oliver Martin and Dylan Ellis were shot and killed while waiting for a friend outside a condo on Richmond Street West. Today, the horrifying incident remains one of the city’s most perplexing unsolved cases—and Martin’s step-father, Alan Dudeck, is fighting an uphill battle for stricter gun-control laws in Canada.
For readers who haven’t followed Oliver and Dylan’s story, can you go over what happened on the night of their murders?
From our prospective, what happened was we received a phone call from a close friend of Oliver and Dylan’s shortly after midnight. I could hear that there was a lot of racket in the background. He said, “Something horrible has happened—get down to St. Mike’s.” When we got there, we found out that there had been a shooting. Four hours later, I was writing Oliver’s obituary.
What do you know about what happened at the scene?
Oliver, his girlfriend, and Dylan were at a friend’s condo watching an NBA playoff game. He had just passed the second part of his CFA [Chartered Financial Analyst] exam, so he was happy about that. After the game, they were on their way home when they got a call from one of the guys at the condo because Dylan had used his keys and still had them. They drove back, parked on Richmond, and waited for the friend to come down and get the keys. That’s when the shooter approached. He may or may not have been on a bike—we’ve heard different stories. I think Dylan said something like, “How’s it going?” but that was it. The long and the short of it is he used three bullets to kill two young men at close range. Before he was killed, Oliver yelled at his girlfriend in the backseat to get down. Those were likely the last words that he ever said.
This case really resonated and continues to resonate with the public. Why do you think that is?
I guess, of course, there is the randomness and the fact that Oliver and Dylan were in the prime of life [Oliver was 25 years old, Dylan was 26]. This wasn’t a gang crime or a drug deal gone wrong. The media has really made a big deal of the whole “Rosedale” thing [both boys came from affluent families], which I find frustrating, but I guess it just made people realize that nobody is safe from gun violence.
After four years, you must have turned over nearly every plausible theory in your head. Is there one that makes the most sense to you?
Our son was killed for no apparent reason. That was all we knew and, quite frankly, four years later, we don’t know a lot more than that. I can’t imagine that the boys had a connection with the shooter and the police haven’t found one. Mistaken identity seems pretty weak because the shooter was so close and managed to get a good look before they were shot.
Are you a person who struggles with all of the “if onlys”? This story has a lot of them.
I’ve been fortunate in my ability to compartmentalize. About a year and a half after Oliver was killed, I started seeing someone for professional help, which has been useful. People talk about closure—there will never be closure. And certainly, my wife struggles with all of the “what ifs.” Part of her is still in that car with the boys.
Do you think the shooter will ever be caught?
Gary Giroux, who is the lead homicide cop on this case, has said that he’s never dealt with a case where there is such a lack of motivation. Nobody knows why this happened, so there’s not a lot to follow up on. Of course, I want justice to be done, but there are also some mixed feelings because going through a trial would be incredibly difficult and my family has already been through so much. I guess I am just of the mind that none of it is going to bring Oliver back.
You’ve channelled a lot of your energy into advocating for a national handgun ban, including a recent protest at Queen’s Park on the anniversary of Oliver’s death. Are you seeing any progress?
I think we’re still at the stage where we’re trying to nurture a public consciousness—there is something that can be done and we should do it. The legislators at the federal level are indifferent at best. I mean, for Harper and his cohorts to have gotten rid of the long-gun registry is just crazy. And now they will destroy the records that were collected.
You’re referring to the registry that tracked gun ownership in Canada so that the police could have a sense of who owns what?
Right. Having those records isn’t going to eliminate gun violence, but it’s certainly a tool. Thousands of cops make inquiries through that database every day, so obviously it’s useful. If we’re not going to be allowed to have one at the federal level maybe it’s something that could happen on a provincial level. I’m not sure.
Police Chief Blair recently said that a handgun ban isn’t going to solve the problem because most of the guns in Canada are stolen or smuggled in from the States.
What’s not getting through to otherwise intelligent people is that no one is saying that a handgun ban would be a panacea that would eliminate all gun crimes. I’m not even disputing Chief Blair’s claim about where guns come from, but let’s stop running numbers and take whatever action we can. Saving some people, even a few people, is still worthwhile.
After the recent Eaton Centre shooting, Rob Ford invoked the old maxim, “People kill people, guns don’t kill people.”
I’m going to watch what I say here…that’s simplistic. Of course, he’s right to the extent that a person has to pull the trigger, but let’s make it a lot harder for that person to have a gun in their hands. It’s just that when you introduce a gun, what might have otherwise been a reasonably harmless fight can become lethal. Or, if we’re talking about domestic violence, let’s make it so that the inflictor does not have access to a gun at the moment of pure rage.
You mentioned that you’re heading to Prince Edward Island, where you will pay tribute to Oliver on his birthday.
Our family has been going out to P.E.I. every summer since the kids were young. Three weeks after Oliver’s death, my wife and I drove out with his ashes. I can honestly say I don’t even remember that trip—thank God for shock and adrenaline. Every year, we mark Oliver’s birthday, June 29. I married a MacDonald from P.E.I., which basically means I’m related to half the island. There’s a lot of love and support there, and a lot of good memories. We’ll be singing. Oliver was such a lover of music, so that’s a big part of it. We still have his iPod, so we’ll listen to some of those mixes that he made. He loved all kinds of music and had a real talent for putting it all together.