The Kwarteng family thought they had finally found a better place to live. Then, their son died outside their suburban home.
Steps from the front stoop of the Kwarteng home in a quiet north Brampton suburb, the concrete walkway leading to the backyard is still stained with blood, even after months of snow and ice.
For the grieving family inside, it’s a reminder that the violence the Ghanaian immigrants had hoped to leave behind instead found them in their new home.
Just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 10, 2014, Asare Bediako Kwarteng heard a “pop, pop, pop” he initially thought was fireworks. Moments later, he was holding the bloodied body of his 22-year-old son, Collins.
Gunfire had erupted directly outside the porch as Collins, his younger brother Cyprian and one of their friends stood outside, free-styling to music blasting from Cyprian’s car. The trio was ambushed in the dark by one or more shooters, who killed Collins on the spot and shot Cyprian in the arm before making a swift getaway, possibly in a car waiting nearby.
Peel Regional Police have revealed little about their investigation, but confirm it was not a random attack and that the suspected culprit has gang connections.
Homicide detectives have now linked Collins’ slaying to another incident of violence in the north Brampton area in April, when a targeted drive-by shooting wounded one of Collins’ friends.
Police assure Collins’ parents, two brothers and two sisters that progress is being made on the case. But waiting for an arrest in the killing of the aspiring business student, who planned to attend Humber College this year, is becoming increasingly difficult.
Lacking answers and fearing for his safety, Cyprian, now 21, has moved out of province to stay with a relative.
“We came to Canada for a better life, we moved out of Rexdale for a much better life. We came to Brampton,” said Ben Kwarteng, Collins’ older brother. “This is not (like in Ghana), where things like this happen and people just live freely. We’re in Canada, man.”
THE BASKETBALL COURTS in Rexdale were where Ben bonded most with his little brothers. Living in Ghana until the age of 12, Ben was suddenly thrust into the role of big brother to Collins and Cyprian when he joined the family in Toronto.
“I taught them a lot over time,” Ben, 29, said. “Rexdale is not always the most friendliest place and stuff. Growing up, I taught them how to play basketball, and tried to use that as a, you know, way to stay out of trouble.”
Then on Nov. 10, 2008 — six years before Collins’ death, to the day — during a visit to Ghana, Ben was involved in a serious car accident. He suffered a spinal cord injury that left him quadriplegic. Today, he lives in a care home in downtown Brampton.
The accident changed everything, including his relationship with his brothers. Ben became the one relying on them for help, and Collins in particular stepped forward. He often came to check on Ben, providing his brother with anything he could and bringing his friends over to hang out on weekends.
“He kind of, in some way, became my bigger brother over time. I guess the roles switched around,” says Ben.
But Ben feels his injury meant he was not around enough to guide his brothers in the right direction. Collins eventually ran into trouble with the law, and at the time of his death he was facing a controlled-substance possession charge and several fraud-related offences for misuse of credit cards.
The family denies knowing any reason why Collins was shot, but Ben thinks his brother could have been targeted because of the people he was associating with.
“You could be a good guy, but if one of your friends is doing something wrong, then somebody sees you with him, they are going to think: You are part of this, you are part of that.
“Only Collins, the people he hangs around and the person who did it knows why they did it.”
CONST. PAUL QUASHIE has become a familiar face in the Kwarteng home. The officer plays a special role in the ongoing investigation, what Peel police call a victim liaison officer.
He regularly meets with the family, takes their calls, listens to their concerns. He met them immediately after Collins’ death and arranged for police presence at the funeral. Months later, he is in frequent contact about the investigation.
“I keep them up to speed as best I can,” says Quashie, in a recent interview.
It’s the “best I can” part that everyone acknowledges strains the relationship. Quashie is open about the fact that he cannot share some aspects of the investigation because it could compromise the case. In turn, the family feels out of the loop.
“We keep hearing the same thing — that progress is being made,” says Ben.
“It seems like a one-way channel of information, coming from the family to me. So I empathize 100 per cent with what they are going through,” Quashie says. “You are trying to formulate your own closure, and you want to know that something imminent is going to happen that is going to give you that closure.”
For Asare, who works full time as a cabinet maker, and his wife, Grace Osei, a quiet woman who works odd jobs part-time, their focus has been on arresting those responsible. But they know a conviction can only go so far to end their grief.
“You raise somebody 22 years, and one day,” said Asare, putting his head in his hands, “somebody take his life.”
Voices from a tragedy
“If I tell you what I feel, you can’t believe it. Right now,” says Grace Osei, Collins’ mother, motioning to her heart, “I’m crying right here.”
“The same thing we were trying to escape from in Ghana happened to us in Brampton.” — Ben Kwarteng, Collins’ older brother
“It would be so satisfying to say, ‘This is where we’re at,’ but again, to protect the integrity of the information, it’s not possible.” — Peel Regional Police Const. Paul Quashie
By: Wendy Gillis News reporter, The Star
An X Live Africa News Aggregation Service (http://xliveafrica.com)