Police arrest 70 people in morning raids related to Five Point Generalz street gang
Published Thursday, June 21, 2018 8:15AM EDT Last Updated Thursday, June 21, 2018 6:38PM EDT
A total of 70 people with alleged ties to a violent street gang were arrested early Thursday morning after police conducted a series of raids across the Greater Toronto Area.
The raids were part of Project Patton, a nine-month multijurisdictional investigation intended to disrupt the activities of the street gang “Five Point Generalz.”
The gang, according to Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, is connected a “multitude of shootings” in the city.
More than 800 officers executed 50 search warrants in the Toronto, Durham, York and Peel regions beginning at 5 a.m. this morning, where a significant amount of firearms and narcotics were seized.
Saunders said the investigation was “strategic” and “surgical” and that the result has “dealt a significant blow to their hierarchy and operations.”
“It became apparent that this group was involved in a number of violent offenses involving firearms,” he told reporters at a news conference on Thursday. “Further, that they were active in the sale and distribution of illegal narcotics.”
While the gang is believed to be rooted in Toronto, specifically in the Weston Road and Lawrence Avenue area, investigators believe its operations stretch across Canada, the United States and into the Caribbean.
One of the shootings connected to the alleged gang claimed the life of 11-year-old Ephraim Brown at his birthday party in 2007. Brown had been given permission from his parents to stay up past his bedtime on July 22 to celebrate with more than 70 people in the backyard of a townhouse near Jane Street and Sheppard Avenue. Up to 12 shots rang out that night, one of which fatally struck Brown in the neck.
In 2010, a jury acquitted Gregory Sappleton and Akiel Eubank on charges of second-degree murder but Eubank’s lawyer conceded his client was a member of the Five Point Generalz.
Saunders said the sheer amount of firearms and illicit drugs seized today reflects “the type of carnage this gang was capable of.”
“I won’t get into the deep roots of the Five Point Generalz because I don’t want to give them credibility. If I start bigging them up in the terminology then I’m doing them a favour. I am not going to do that” he said.
“These are thugs that collectively use firearms to shoot other people and it’s a concern because it’s lasted for a period of time, as have other street gangs.”
Saunders and the Toronto Police Service has come under fire in recent weeks after a spate of gun violence hit neighbourhoods across the city, including a recent daylight shooting at a Scarborough playground that injured two young girls, one critically.
So far in 2018, there have been 194 shootings, up more than 21 per cent from the same period last year.
Saunders deflected the idea that the spike is severe and said today’s arrests shouldn’t be seen as a fix-all for the city’s gun violence.
“There’s no magic pill to community safety,” he said.
“When we talk about victims being shot, it’s one person more a month, which still is not a good day, we still need figure out what we can do to reduce that, but to say that this egregious and tremendously horrific, I will push back and say no. It is a concern, we are looking after it, working with communities and hopefully we can reduce those numbers.”
Police have not yet released details about the charges those in custody may face, but Saunders said they will relate to drug trafficking, violent crime and other offences.
“We’re talking about street gangs that utilize firearms for business processes and have no hesitation using firearms,” he said. “We talk about our gunplay in the city – street gangs play a huge, massive role in that type of activity.”
A second news conference is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Friday where Saunders says more details about the case, the arrests and seizures will be released.