A man has been charged in connection with the Feb. 6 botched arson attempt at an Ottawa apartment complex during the Ottawa Freedom Convoy protests. Members of the Trudeau Liberals and mainstream media journalists spread the unsubstantiated claim that Connor Russell McDonald, 21, of Ottawa was involved with the protests.
Police wrote in a news release on Monday that "There is no information indicating MCDONALD was involved in any way with the Convoy protest which was going on when this arson took place."
He has been charged with
- Arson Causing Property Damage
- Mischief to Property Endangering Life
- Mischief to Property
- Possess Incendiary Material
- Arson Disregard for Human Life
There were widespread claims that a fire was deliberately set by pro-convoy supporters inside an apartment's lobby in the Centretown area, located near the intersection of Lisgar and Metcalfe Streets, over one month ago as the Freedom Convoy entered its second week of demonstrations in Ottawa's downtown core.
The arson suspects filmed on surveillance camera were a purple-haired offender and a mask-wearing co-conspirator, not the burly trucker stereotype one would expect of a freedom-loving dissident protesting COVID-19 restrictions.
The Post Millennial checked in on the month-long police probe.
Weeks following the bombshell that diffused with the convoy's forced departure, an Ottawa Police Service spokesperson told The Post Millennial that the investigation is ongoing and that police were following up on several public tips.
"It has not been determined if the incident is related to the protest," the media relations section of the Ottawa Police Service wrote via email statement, at the time.
As tensions escalated with counter-protesters in the area, the Antifa-esque appearance of the suspects had raised suspicion among the citizen detectives who did the heavy lifting to debunk the rumours and speculated that the event was staged by bad-faith agitators trying to provoke from across the political aisle.
An outspoken tenant living in the Ottawa apartment building is the primary source whose account of the early Sunday morning arson became the entire basis for the viral story that made its rounds and what the media circus was raving all about.
Apartment resident Matias Muñoz took to Twitter—despite self-proclaimed hesitation on making the 14-tweet Twitter testimony public—to detail the "facts" after resolving he "must" disclose what he knows for the community's "safety."
Muñoz said that Sunday evening that the two arsonists brought a full package of firestarter bricks into the building's lobby at approximately 5 am.
Two male suspects, who then began lighting the fire-starting material, were captured in screengrabs of security footage that Muñoz posted online.
Muñoz was quick to emphasize just two tweets into the detailed social media disclosure that the apartment building, which he stressed is old and has wood paneling on the complex's walls, resides "at the epicentre of the convoy protests."
A suspect taped the door handles so no one could get in or out, Muñoz said. "This is the most insidious part of the experience besides the lighting of the fire," he said.
Residents said the front doors do not lock, The Canadian Press reported.
After a night of blaring horns and fireworks until about 4 am, residents had yelled and "pleaded" with Freedom Convoy protesters outside to stop, Muñoz claimed.
As the package fire was being lit, a tenant walked by the scene unfolding and "nervously" asked who the pair of suspects were. One of the men allegedly admitted to being part of the Freedom Convoy protests, Muñoz claimed.
The resident entered the elevator and the suspects continued to ignite the package. Once lit, the fire grew and almost touched the building's wood panel walls.
Then the arsonists escaped out of the side door while recovered surveillance video shows the blaze growing, Muñoz said, providing only still images on Twitter.
"After speaking with many residents, it became clear that certain protesters outside became very aggressive and angry at the tenants in the hours leading up to the arson," Muñoz continued to point fingers at the convoy. "Not all protesters, but a few screamed and were clearly upset by the confrontation earlier in the night."
A good Samaritan was walking by the door outside and saw the fire, Muñoz said. "Luckily the door opened after some struggle with the taped handles" and he was able to get inside the apartment's lobby to extinguish the flames, he stated.
"It is clear to us, as residents, that this was a blatant reprisal by protesters," Muñoz said. "Not only have they subjected Ottawa residents to widespread harassment, assault, and aggression, but now an attempt to light an entire building on fire."
Tagging the respective parties, Muñoz said the residents hope the Ottawa Police Service and the city's mayor would "heed" the calls of Ottawa City Councillor Catherine McKenney, who uses "they/them" pronouns and identifies as trans/non-binary," for "an immediate and firm resolution to the convoy's occupation."
To which, McKenney responded within the hour in the Twitter replies: "I've brought this to the attention of police and have requested extra security.
"This incident could have ended much, much worse," Muñoz tweeted.
Muñoz said that he obtained the footage from the building manager who let the residents see the video, also adding that the cameras are "well hidden."
"Police were called once the fire remnants were noticed in the morning," he said.
Muñoz said the tenant who interacted with the suspects did file a report as police were "pulling it all together and taking statements from tenants in the building."
Then the backpedalling began with Muñoz claiming he's certain the arson is just related to the protest.
"To be clear, the protesters created the unsafe conditions under which this event was allowed to transpire," Muñoz insisted, concluding the lengthy Twitter thread. "I'm not saying it was a big burly trucker. I think it's a bad actor related to the protests who wants to hurt people. It started with the swastika on day 1. Period."
Responding to backlash a day later, Muñoz tweeted: "It's amazing how much hatred we're getting from the 'alt-right' mob right now…" Muñoz doubled down and claimed "whoever it was that did it I firmly believe it was because of a prevailing sense of lawlessness downtown Ottawa caused by the convoy."
"This terror needs to stop now," Muñoz beseeched.
A weekend prior, Freedom Convoy protesters had confronted a lone masked man who appeared with a Confederate flag and demanded he leave the protest.
Muñoz went on a media tour the next day, telling The Canadian Press that when he came downstairs Sunday morning, he saw that the carpet, as well as the floor, were charred and observed blackened fire-starter bricks strewn across the lobby.
"On top of all that, somebody trying to do something as insidious as taping the door shut so people can't leave if there's a fire in the main lobby — it's terror, is what it is," Muñoz said to reporters, also describing the audible protests outside.
"It sounded like a war zone out there," Muñoz told the press.
In an interview, Muñoz told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning that a few tenants had woken up to find "little pucks" that look like "square bricks" meant to start fires left near the elevators. "They were charred and a whole box of them was kind of, you know, laid out all over the lobby of the building," Muñoz said that Monday.
Another tenant posted a 29-second video showing the box of flammable squares and its contents scattered on the grey cobblestone outside the main exit.
"Attempted arson in our building lobby overnight. People live here. Families live here," the anonymous resident with the screen name "Alex MK" wrote on Twitter, calling on the mayor of Ottawa and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "[W]here are you? Ottawa has been abandoned. #OttawaOccupation#GoHomeFluTruxKlan."
Twitter sleuths, accusing the resident of tampering with evidence before a proper police probe, archived the tweet before the tenant made the account private then changed handles. Alex MK had assisted Muñoz's propagation of the story as the original voices to break the news of an arson attack on the Ottawa residence.
Alex MK's communism-loving Twitter profile, which was adorned with the hammer and sickle, had rage tweeted for days about the Freedom Convoy.
"#GoHomeFluTruxKlan," the Twitter account wrote many times.
Right after Muñoz ignited the media firestorm, AlexMK went on a tagging spree, broadcasting the incident to key players on the left who would amplify the story.
Muñoz said that residents were first confused by the discovery before viewing the security footage, alongside other tenants, thanks to the building manager.
"We all were a little scared, a little nervous, and we got together and kind of put our heads together to figure out how we're going to approach this," Muñoz said.
Muñoz said there was a confrontation between some of the residents and a few anti-vaccine mandate protesters outside just hours before the fire, CBC News reported. Meanwhile, local law enforcement had not confirmed any connection at the time between the police investigation and the Freedom Convoy protest.
Police appeared to have found out about the arson attack half a day later via Twitter and moved to recover tracings of a service call when prompted by the press for documented evidence of an overnight emergency at the apartment building.
Ottawa police officer Jim Elves, identifying as the inspector in charge, replied to Muñoz and stated that he oversees the police's arson unit. "Can you DM me your cellphone number so we can initiate an investigation," Elves asked Muñoz.
Later on that Monday morning, CBC News journalist Nahayat Tizhoosh posted a pair of updates from the Ottawa Police Service on the shocking incident.
"There were no calls for service regarding an arson," the initial police statement reads, noting that, however, around 2:50 pm Sunday, the Ottawa Police Reporting Unit (PRU) received a call about mischief in the 200 block of Lisgar St.
A new Ottawa police statement was released hours later that Monday, revealing that "[u]pon further review," authorities located a call for service regarding the arson. The force's Police Service Arson unit is investigating the incident, it said.
"We cannot provide any further details at this time as the investigation is ongoing," a police spokesperson wrote in an email to CBC News, asking anyone with information to contact the unit's investigators via phone or email.
When asked by The Post Millennial when the apartment fire was first on the police's radar, the Ottawa Police Service verified that a call for service was received on Feb. 6 at approximately 2:55 pm "about damage to property."
Seeking the public's help to identify the duo involved in the blaze, Ottawa Police Service released CCTV images that Monday afternoon showing the two persons of interest in the arson investigation. The supposed Freedom Convoy protesters seeking to end mandatory vaccination for Canadian truckers include an individual with purple-dyed hair and another wearing a COVID-19 face mask during the act.
The apartment fire caused "minor damage," according to the Ottawa Police Service press release on Feb. 7 but no injuries were reported. "It's believed that one or more persons entered the building and started a fire using undisclosed materials."
Freelance journalist Justin Ling uploaded a 9-minute 59-second video on Twitter showing several camera angles and jump-cut surveillance footage from Feb. 6.
The first vantage point captures the street-level view from 196 Metcalfe St, the building across from the apartment, at the stoplight intersection with Lisgar St.
Both suspects enter through the side door located on Metcalfe, according to the outside POV. The two stand on the sidewalk surrounding the Algonquin Hotel Apartments before the first individual heads towards the building. There are a few seconds of delay before the initial suspect, with an extended hand standing at the entrance, is able to open the door. Then the second suspect follows behind.
The purple-haired man can be seen inside leading the way past the elevators and around the corner with the hooded suspect in tow. He then reappears moments later, sauntering through the hallway and looking over his shoulder.
Another clip captures the double-door front entrance as its handles are taped.
Then the video returns to the elevators where the half-masked, hooded suspect gulps a yellow drink after charging around the bend. The long clip appears to be sped up, with the two male suspects making dramatized movements.
The inquiring tenant—blurred out to protect the resident's identity—is visible halfway through the shot before exiting through one of the elevators.
At 5:22 am, the aforementioned good Samaritan peeks around the corner, disappears, then reemerges to kick around the flammable material set ablaze.
The good Samaritan, also covered with a large-sized rectangular blur by the video's editor, reaches down and puts out some burning embers, but the surveillance footage does not show the exact moment when the entire fire is extinguished.
Ling said, while not naming Muñoz, that a resident claimed that the tenants had been confronting the freedom protesters in the preceding hours and the neighbours were getting into "heated" arguments with the occupiers from the building's windows after horn blasting and fireworks continued until 4 am.
During a virtual press conference, Ottawa Deputy Police Chief Steve Bell confirmed the following Tuesday that authorities don't have any direct connection whatsoever between the early morning arson and the Freedom Convoy protesters.
"Is there any reason to believe there is a connection with the trucker protests...?" Globe and Mail political reporter Kristy Kirkup asked Bell at the Feb. 8 presser.
Bell stated that "incidents like that are creating great amounts of community concern in the neighbourhoods that are surrounding this demonstration."
"Although we don't have any direct linkage between the occupation—the demonstrators—and that act," Bell established while speaking with reporters remotely, "the community is at a heightened risk because of those activities."
Quillette editor Jonathan Kay analyzed the peculiar inconsistencies in Muñoz's theatrical narration. "So the story here is that last night, there was a mass murder plot in an Ottawa apt building, with one of the would-be killers telling a passer-by (for no apparent reason) he was a protestor. But no one calls 911, & Ottawa arson's unit finds out about it on twitter a day later," Kay tweeted Sunday night.
Kay noticed that Big Media sites such as CBC Ottawa and Ottawa Citizen were slow to report on what would've been the top headline of the day, suggesting that if the facts were solid, reporters would have pounced on the opportunity to write trauma journalism porn about "the hundreds of lives that were saved from immolation by the bravery of anti-protest activists living in an apt building."
"[A]nd is there a reason why this big-rig trucker seems to be a college-age teenager or young adult with purple hair?" Kay pointed out, posting a photo of the suspect.
"[U]m, also, anyone else find if odd that the person who wrote this is oddly ambivalent about finding the ppl who, yknow, tried to murder everyone, yet is *extremely* interested in making sure the narrative is used to advance the political goal of expelling protesters from the city?" Kay questioned. "And why exactly would anyone 'hesitate' to raise the alarm about a crime that, had it played out, would have been the greatest act of mass murder Ottawa had ever witnessed?"
Kay pondered why a suspect carrying out a mass murder plot would use tape on a door while they're still inside and "then we learn later in the thread that the killers just waltzed out some other door, which, like, apparently, anyone could use?"
"It's a good thing I know this is a good faith report of an arson attack, or I'd have abundant reason to think that this was an incredibly clumsy false accusation made by a trio of amateurs looking to use this stunt to make a political statement. Good thing that's def not the case," Kay continued in the Twitter analysis.
Kay said he looks forward to an update from Ottawa police as its current social media feed had covered many tweets reporting on road closures, "but none about mass-murder arson plots. Maybe it's not high priority," he commented on Feb. 6.
"[M]y fav detail about this real thing that totally happened: tenant asks arsonist—mid-arson—who he is. [A]rsoner stops his arsoning & says 'I'm a convoy protestor guy/arsoner' Then he continues arsoning, while tenant goes to bed in his soon-to-be-immolated building & doesn't call 911," Kay broke down the events.
"That's totally how I would react if someone were burning down my house. I'd be like 'Hey who are you?' Then he'd recite his political grievances and continue engaging in arson while I watched netflix and then hit the sack, resolved to write a twitter thread about it the next morn," Kay parodied the morning's stage play.
CTV National News journalist Glen McGregor was there when the superintendent was on the phone with police circa 2:30 pm, which Kay calculated to be eight to nine hours after the "supposed arson murder plotters were caught red handed."
"I was there, in the super's office, while he was on the phone with [Ottawa Police Service]. And no, we don't know if these guys were part of the protest. And I saw what looked to be fresh burn marks on the carpet (but I'm not an arson investigator so...)," McGregor tweeted in response to Kay's probing.
Kay asked McGregor if he heard anything on the scene about how the doors were taped by the two suspects identifying themselves as Freedom Convoy protesters.
McGregor answered: "No one I spoke to -- two apartment building staff -- mentioned the taping of the door handles. But I didn't ask because that was new info from the tenant's [Twitter thread]. He is a legit tenant. This is all fuzzy and, thus, we didn't include it in our reporting on protest, pending more info."
"To be precise: I don't know when the super called OPS, only that he was talking to them when I got there. They have been busy. He may have called it in earlier," McGregor clarified, a caveat Kay highlighted in his independent reporting.
Father-turned-activist Chris Elston, who's speaking out against radical gender ideology targeting children, disputed Muñoz's depiction of Sunday's timeline.
The disputing eyewitness, known as "Billboard Chris" on social media for paying tribute to British author JK Rowling with a controversial advertisement, said he spoke with Muñoz after he came downstairs when Elston, whose hotel was 300 meters away, walked over to the apartment building to "check things out."
Elston said Muñoz is lying."There are no protestors anywhere near here. Not a single truck in sight, and there were no horns blaring until 4am," he tweeted.
"There are no truckers anywhere near here. This had nothing to do with them. It’s a normal street with no trucks outside. I was just there and spoke to Matias, who happened to come down for a smoke," Elston maintained on Twitter. "He was very mad at me, but I managed to have a nice conversation with him."
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson condemned the alleged arson at a special council meeting that Monday afternoon, blaming the incident on the then-ongoing pro-medical freedom rally that's been largely peaceful, according to protest footage.
"Yesterday we learned of a horrific story that clearly demonstrates the malicious intent of these protesters occupying our city," Watson stated on Feb. 7. "Thankfully no one was hurt, but this story could have ended very, very differently. It's extremely disturbing, and points to a desire to harm our residents."
Watson had declared a state of emergency that Sunday over the Freedom Convoy's presence, arguing that the declaration "reflects the serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents posed by the ongoing demonstrations."
The so-far unsubstantiated allegation, even insinuated by the mayor of Ottawa without an official police report released to the public, has yet to yield any evidence proving that Freedom Convoy protesters are the culprits behind the overnight fire.
Developments in the sensational case indicating the opposite didn't stop the Liberal mob from falling for the apparent hoax seemingly attempting to frame the protesters supporting the Freedom Convoy as murderous arsonists.
Following the Trudeau crackdown on the weeks-long Freedom Convoy, the arson case has since been memory-holed by a population that had jumped to conclusions and feasted on the bias-affirming story during the height of the occupation.
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