Remembering Tyson Ndongozi: Football coach recalls time with young man prior to tragic death

One of Tyson Ndongozi's football coaches is remembering the young man as someone who brightened everyone's day.

Ndongozi, 20, was shot to death late Sunday night on the basketball court at St. Anne Catholic Elementary School in Lowertown. He is Ottawa's tenth homicide victim of 2021. He and his family came to Canada from Burundi just four years ago, hoping to find peace, his father said.

A second man was hurt and is expected to survive.

Police continue to search for suspects. Ndongozi is not believed to have been the intended target of the fatal shooting.

Those who knew him describe the 20-year-old as a "gentle giant."

Charly Marseille, coached Ndongozi with the North Gloucester Giants. He shared some of his memories on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent" on Saturday.

"Chris, the head coach, had been sending me messages over the week that he had this star player he wanted to show me. Knowing Chris, he had sometimes hyped up some players but I finally got to see Tyson and the first thing he did was introduce himself to me as 'Big Sexy' and that's how I'm always going to remember him," Marseille said.

"The confidence that he had and just the joy that he brought. Right when we met, I thought this kid is special and he's going to do special things."

Marseille also described Ndongozi as a creative photographer who also developed a passion for football.

"Tyson was always one of those players that you had to double-team. If you had him one-on-one, he was winning," he said. "He helped with our run game, he helped with our pass game, and he made always sure to do his job."

The team is working with the Ndongozi family on a memorial, Marseille said.

A vigil was held Tuesday evening in the park near where Ndongozi was killed and an online fundraiser has been set up to help the family cover funeral costs. It has already raised more than $30,000.

"He was an amazing kid that did amazing things, and we just want to help the family as much as we can so that we can we show them that their son was amazing," Marseille said.

On Monday, Ottawa police released photos of two individuals described as "persons of interest" in the investigation. Investigators are asking for the public's help identifying them. Anyone who lives near the area where the shooting took place is also asked to check any surveillance cameras or dashcams for footage which may help investigators.

"This is a tragedy that shouldn't happen to somebody like that. This is a tragedy that shouldn't happen to anyone in Ottawa," Marseille said. "If we can prevent it from happening to anybody else kids, we need to make sure we take action right now."

 Anyone with information is asked to contact the Homicide Unit at 613-236-1222 ext. 5493.

Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-222-8477 or at crimestoppers.ca.

--With files from CTV Ottawa's Stefan Keyes.