Two dead, 21 injured in Toronto shooting
In the aftermath, blood, tears, death and questions.
Calls by the mayor for a “war on gangs,” and for help by a visibly shaken police chief.
Bullet casings, beer bottles and the discarded remnants of a community block party in Toronto’s east end that ended in the worst gun violence in this city’s history.
Two young people are dead and 23 shot - including a toddler grazed by a bullet. A pregnant woman trampled in the panic as residents and guests fled an east-end public housing project, apparently after a man was turned away from the party and came back with a gun.
Shyanne Charles, of Toronto, and 23-year-old Joshua Yasay, of Ajax, were pronounced dead at the scene following a blazing gun battle.
Charles was a popular, athletic, outgoing teen, the eldest of four children, who lived in a nearby townhouse complex.
“Gonna pawty w/ my mom tonight, haha!” she wrote on her Twitter account the day of the barbecue.
Yasay coached youth basketball. He recently graduated from York University, opened a barbershop in Ajax and wanted to be a cop. Friends called “one of the nice guys.”
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said the shooting “will be shocking to all of Canada.”
“The level of violence is something we’ve never experienced,” he said.
He suggested police fear the shootings could lead to retaliatory violence, from gang members seeking revenge but offered no details on which gangs were involved.
Police are seeking two men, and a second handgun after finding one at the scene, but at press time had not yet given a description of either man.
During an evening rally, GTA Faith Alliance — an interfaith group leader Senator Don Meredith — urged a crowd that included friends and family of the slain and wounded to reject “revenge.”
Meredith quoted Martin Luther King, saying “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
“We will not tolerate this,” he told the crowd, adding officials need to work together to get guns off the street. “We must stand for peace and safety in our neighbourhoods.”
Shooting erupted following an altercation around 10:42 p.m. Monday at a party hosted at a Toronto Community Housing building, which was attended by up to 100 people.
There were burgers, hot dogs and jerk chicken cooked at the annual neighborhood barbecue that was meant to be a family event.
But QMI Agency learned adults from all over the city began arriving in response to Twitter postings about the barbecue. As they did, marijuana and Caribbean rum became readily available.
Calling the violence that followed “the scariest thing that has happened here,” a young resident told QMI Agency a man appeared to have become upset when people rejected him.
“I heard the guy wasn’t accepted,” she said. “He said, ‘I’m going to get my guys, so you’d better be ready.’”
The resident said, “He came back with one or two other people and started shooting.”
A total of 16 ambulances and the Toronto EMS bus responded to the scene and rounded up victims. Two who sought their own medical attention later contacted police.
Paramedics assessed patients and whisked them away to hospitals as neighbourhood residents -- most of whom were unwilling to talk about the deadly gun violence -- frantically tried to locate loved ones.
“This is unique,” Toronto EMS Deputy Chief Garrie Wright said of mayhem medics faced. “But our paramedics are highly trained. They train for incidents just like this.”
Blair blamed gang violence for the shootings.
“This altercation involved two individuals and as a result, there was an exchange of gunfire,” Blair said.
“There is strong indication that there may have been a gang involvement,” he added, suggesting the individuals police are seeking “are associated with gangs.”
The oldest surviving victim was 33, Blair told reporters, calling most of the injured “innocents.”
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford vowed the city will “take action against the spineless cowards causing this violence,” adding, “It’s time for us to declare war on these violent gangs.”
— With files from Jenny Yuen
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Police officers watch over what appears to be a dead body at a crime scene following a shooting in Scarborough, a suburb in east Toronto, July 17, 2012. Two people were killed and at least 19 injured in a shooting at an outdoor party in Toronto, police said on Tuesday, raising fresh fears of a rise in gun crime in Canada's largest city. REUTERS/Mark Blinch