Toronto man sentenced in Danzig Street shooting case
A Toronto man has pleaded guilty to eight charges in connection with the July 2012 Danzig Street shooting that left two people dead and injured two others.
Nahom Tsegazab pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and six counts of aggravated assault at a court hearing on Friday.
The shooting occurred at a neighbourhood barbecue outside a community housing complex on Danzig Street in Toronto’s east end. Shyanne Charles, 14, and Joshua Yasay, 23, were killed in the cross-fire.
Tsegazab, 20, who co-organized the barbeque, had handed out school supplies and basketballs to neighbourhood children in the afternoon. Later in the day, he passed out free shots of cognac while a DJ serenaded a crowd of more than 200 people.
The night took a turn when Tsegazab said he heard someone was coming to "shoot up" the Scarborough barbecue.
"Sometime shortly after 9 p.m., a young woman attended the barbecue and advised, among others, Nahom Tsegazab that an individual was threatening to come shoot up the party," Crown attorney Tom Pittman told court on Friday, reading from an agreed statement of facts. "At this time Nahom Tsegazab armed himself with a .40-calibre semi-automatic firearm."
At around 10:40 p.m., the first gunshots rang out, but they didn't come from Tsegazab. Tsegazab was shot twice, once in his right arm and once in his abdomen, court heard. The unidentified shooter turned and ran through the crowd, Pittman said.
Tsegazab fell to the ground, pulled out his gun and "recklessly fired 11 rounds into the direction of the shooter as he fled through the large crowd," Pittman said.
As the shooter fled from Tsegazab, an "unknown shooter fired 14 9-mm rounds into the crowd.
"As this unknown male discharged his firearm, Shyanne Charles ran into the path of the bullets, was struck a number of times and succumbed to her injuries at the doorstep of unit 203 Danzig St. The additional rounds were fired indiscriminately into the crowd, striking numerous individuals as they tried to flee from the barbecue," Pittman said.
Yasay was shot in the back as he attempted to flee, and died almost immediately, though it is not clear who fired the shot that killed him, Pittman said.
Though Tsegazab may not have actually fired the bullets that killed Yasay and Charles, there is a direct connection between his actions and the deaths and injuries, Pittman told the court.
Among those who were shot and survived were a 15-year-old girl, who was shot in her arm, and a two-year-old boy who was shot in the back of his head, court heard.
Both the Crown and defence lawyers requested a 14-year sentence, a sentence the judge agreed was "just and fair." With time spent in pre-trial custody, Tsegazab has another 11 years and five months to.
Emotional victim impact statements read to court
After Tsegazab admitted to the facts, members of the victims' families were invited to deliver victim impact statements.
Yasay's family remembered a young man with an infectious smile, a scholar, a mentor to kids in the community and someone who wanted to be a police officer. His mother called it "ironic" that Yasay's death involved the very legal system he hoped to work in.
Remilinda Yasay sobbed and was at times incomprehensible as she spoke about the loss of her only son.
"I often wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning crying or feeling sadness. I miss him so much," she said. "Joshua's passing has left a hole in my heart that can never be filled. He is my only son and he was taken away before me."
"Now I feel that the world we live in is a terrible place filled with evil people -- people like the man sitting before me," Yasay's second-oldest sister, Janelle Yasay, said, adding that her brother's last words were "Please save me."
Yasay's eldest sister, Jennilyn, said that since Tsegazab decided to plead guilty, "I've had no energy, my heart feels broken, my chest feels heavy and my head and body aches and I can't stop crying."
"The gunman had to have known that discharging a firearm would result in injury and in our case potential death," she said. "Even skilled marksmen know not to open fire at a crowd. He made this decision to draw his firearm and open fire."
Shyanne Charles' mother's eyes welled with tears as she looked at Tsegazab and told him, "because of you, she's gone."
"Every day when I wake up, my heart shatters in pieces. Every day when I go to sleep, I have nightmares of seeing my daughter on the ground, dead, eyes open, can't do nothing to save her. Nothing," she said.
"She was only 14. I shouldn't have to bury my daughter. I will never wish what happened that night on my worst enemy," Charles said.
After the victim impact statements and sentencing submissions from the Crown and defence lawyers, Justice John McMahon asked Tsegazab to speak.
Tsegazab said that he had thought about writing a prepared statement, but could not find the words, so he spoke without notes.
"Hearing everybody talk, I mean, I knew people were suffering, but I never knew how bad it really was," he said. "I don't know how it feels to lose somebody so close."
"Every time I think about it, I wish I could go back and not do it. I don't care what would have happened to me," he said.
"I can only imagine what you guys are going through and I'm so sorry," he said. "I will change my life... I hope you guys can find some closure in this and move on with your life. From the bottom of my heart, please forgive me."