Police call for witnesses in deadly Toronto shooting
Toronto police are asking for the public’s help as they proceed with their investigation into a shooting at an east-end block party that killed two and injured 23 others.
Police Chief Bill Blair told CTV Toronto that a large part of the investigation is focused on gang activity and that public co-operation is needed to build a strong case.
“We’re asking for the public’s help, to enable us to gather the information and evidence necessary to quickly identify, apprehend and incarcerate the individuals responsible,” he said.
“Their behaviour, their demonstrated behaviour, is so dangerous that society needs to be protected from them,” he added.
Blair also said he is concerned that the attack will spark acts of revenge in other parts of the city.
“We know that certain neighbourhooods are fearful and some individuals who may be associated or affiliated to the people involved in this shooting can at times engage in retaliatory violence,” said Blair.
Blair said to protect against any retaliatory violence, the police force will have a “very strong uniform presence” in the Kingston-Galloway neighbourhood where the shooting took place, as well as other neighbourhoods that struggle with gang violence.
Blair said those areas include the Rexdale and the Jane and Finch neighbourhoods, but the Scarborough neighbourhood will be the primary focus.
Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson echoed Blair’s words and urged witnesses and those close to the victims to refrain from taking revenge.
“Those who are witnesses and who have information can make their friends, family and neighbourhood safer by speaking with investigators with the homicide squad,” he said.
Blair calls shooting “most serious crime of its kind”
Earlier on Tuesday Blair called the shooting “the most serious crime of its kind” to ever hit the city.
“The crime that occurred in Scarborough was unprecedented for the city of Toronto. It is a crime that is shocking to all of our citizens, and it is a crime that demands the relentless pursuit of the individuals responsible for this violence,” Blair told a news conference.
Toronto police confirmed that the shooting broke out between two people during a confrontation at the packed party on Danzig Street, near Morningside Avenue and Lawrence Avenue East.
Police believe only one of the injured party-goers, who they say was associated with the Galloway Boys gang, was a target, reported CTV Toronto’s Tamara Cherry.
Police are looking into whether a rap video posted online two days before the shooting played a role in the violence.
A number of area residents took to Twitter hours before the party to post their concerns over the potential violence, and within hours of shots being fired some Twitter users posted messages of retaliation.
“This is just the beginning. Touched the wrong people,” tweeted one individual.
Blair said he’s confident that the case will be resolved quickly but is calling for witnesses to come forward.
Meanwhile Toronto Mayor Rob Ford acknowledged that Toronto does have a gang problems and he promised that the recent violence witnessed throughout the city will come to an end.
“These gun-toting cowards as I call them will not be part of the city,” said Ford. “We’re going to chase them out of town. I’m working with the premier’s office and the prime minister’s office to get the support to get rid of these thugs.”
Homicide detectives released the names of the two homicide victims, Tuesday afternoon, but would not comment on whether they were targeted in the attack or just innocent bystanders.
Fourteen-year-old Shyanne Charles of Toronto and Joshua Yasay, 23, of Ajax, were killed in the flurry of bullets.
Reports emerged that Charles, the eldest of four children, was an avid basketball player and good student.
She participated in a number of basketball and dance programs at the Scarborough Boys and Girls club.
Yasay was a graduate of York University who had plans of becoming a police officer. He also volunteered as a basketball coach with troubled youth.
Twenty-three others were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, including a 22-month-old infant who was also grazed by a bullet in the melee.
Block party turns to deadly
Residents described Monday night’s shooting scene as chaos, as the more than 200 people attending the event fled in a panic as gunfire ripped through the crowd, striking 25 people, two fatally. Another person was injured as panicked partygoers fled the scene.
All but one victim, who remains in critical condition, have either been released from hospital or are expected to recover.
One person is in custody and is being described as a person of interest in connection to the violent attack. Blair said Tuesday that one handgun was recovered at the scene.
Community members said the block party – referred to as a “blocko” – was held for youth in the community, with soccer balls being given to some children in the crowd.
Twitter activity before the event, however, suggested some planning to attend the barbecue expected the party to go late into the night and feature heavy drinking.
A Toronto Community Housing Corp. representative said the event was slated to end at 9 p.m., well before the shooting took place.
Resident Layton, who did not give his last name, said he knew some of the people who were injured. He said the violence in the community likely isn’t over.
“It sickens me. I have been in this city since 1970. I have seen it come and go; changes happen. It never used to be this way,” Layton told CTV Toronto.
“The new players in the game are playing it wrong. It has got to stop. Unless changes are made, it is going to get worse.”
Officials condemn violence
Speaking from Guelph Tuesday, Premier Dalton McGuinty denounced the shootings.
“The actions that unfolded there sadden us and anger us at the same time. They are in a word outrageous. It’s something that we can not and will not stand for.”
Federal cabinet ministers condemned the shootings and asserted their support for the ruling Conservative party’s tough-on-crimes legislation in a joint statement Tuesday.
“Illegal guns and the criminals who use them have no place in our society. Our government is committed to ensuring criminals are held fully accountable for their actions and that the safety and security of law-abiding Canadians comes first in Canada’s justice system,” read the joint statement from former Toronto police chief and current Minister of International Cooperation Julian Fantino, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson.
In an interview with CTV News Channel, Fantino said the degree of violence witnessed in the Scarborough neighbourhood is unprecedented in Canada.
“It’s heart-wrenching, if you will, to see this magnitude of disregard that can only be the actions of absolutely brutal thugs that need to be brought to justice,” he said.
Fantino urged any witnesses to come forward to Toronto police. He stressed that stopping the import of illegal firearms into Canada is a focus of police chiefs throughout the country.
“It will require a holistic approach,” he said of ending gun violence. “Be it governments in the plural sense, certainly communities or society generally, and right down to the family unit, we just have to do a better job of ensuring that these incidents are not ever anything that we in this country should ever anticipate or expect again.”
Toronto police are asking witnesses and people who attended the party to call them with information at 416-808-4300.
With files from Matthew Coutts