DiManno: Deadly bangs and two deaths end a quiet summer in city’s northwest
Rosie DiManno | Star Columnist | As rain falls, moody grey weather, two males are zipped into polyethylene cadaver bags.
The morbid packages, dead weight, are loaded into a couple of black body removal vans, doors slamming shut, for transport to the morgue.
It is 10:06 Tuesday morning.
This is how it ends, over and over again, when gunfire flares in Toronto. Homicide #39 and Homicide #40 for 2012.
No ID was found on the victims. But just after 5 p.m. police released their names: Suleiman Ali, 26, of Toronto; and Warsame Ali, 26, of Vaughan. The men are not related and hail from historically rival gang swatches. They were, however, known to police and “familiar with the area,” as cryptically phrased by police spokesman Const. Tony Vella.
The two were found lying face-down in an alley behind a row of townhouses, in the sprawling Thistletown public housing complex. One, at least, had the back of his head blown off. Killed by “obvious gunshot wounds,” as the initial police statement put it.
BANG! BANG! BANGBANGBANG!
Five shots are what several residents heard; first two, then a pause, then three more in quick succession. A middle-of-the-night noise not rare in this part of the city, Jamestown Crescent. And the sound of footsteps, running away. Black guy in a hoodie.
“A big f—g gun,’’ says a fellow who lives close by, speaking knowledgeably. “Like a .45.’’
Serious gun, that would be, though investigators haven’t revealed whether shell casings were recovered. Forensic teams, day shift replacing night shift, were scouring the scene, an awning erected over where the bodies dropped. Cops canvassed door to door. What did you see? What did you hear?
There are security cameras affixed to walls, two of them directly overlooking the crime scene. Yet those who live here maintain the apparatus is empty, nothing inside, the cameras removed two months ago and never replaced. Not so, counters TPH spokesperson Sinead Canavan. “All of the cameras there are working. The empty cases are from an old system that we no longer use.’’
So maybe useful surveillance video captured the crime.
“I saw one of them lying on his stomach, before they put him in the bag,’’ says a bystander. “He looked young. He was wearing Adidas and pants pulled down low, so you could see his underwear. They were white.’’
It’s a detail, of vulnerability, that seizes the reporter’s heart.
But that glimpse of one victim was hours after the double murder, after daybreak had rendered the scene less menacing, with officers milling about and observers pushing closer.
They don’t give their names, those who claim to have seen or heard something, because that’s what they’ve learned is prudent when the media come around.
“I have to live here,’’ says a woman, peeking cautiously from behind a screen door. “And I have a son …’’
That son — not a boy, grown-up, with do-rag holding back lank black hair — had looked out his window when he heard the shots, cautiously, barely twitching the curtains. Didn’t even consider stepping outside to check if the victims were still alive. At around 1:30 a.m., maybe 20 minutes after the shots, he watched as the first responding officer arrived, a female cop, alone. “She walked up, took a look, then went boogie back fast to her car, like, what the f—.’’
Chortling, among the little group of idling males that have gathered.
No one present will admit to making the 911 call. “People around here don’t call in gunshots,’’ says one middle-aged man who grew up in the complex and never left. “As common as firecrackers, man.’’
Others insist it’s been an unusually quiet summer, hereabouts, uneventful. Felt safe, even, for a change. But most don’t want to speak about the incident, or their community, at all, not to an outsider; foreign-born women in long skirts drawing head coverings across their faces, holding firmly onto their young children’s hands as they bend below the yellow police tape.
Greenholme Jr. Public School is only 300 or so metres away. When kids began emerging from their homes yesterday morning, they had to detour around the kill scene. Nigel Barriffe, a teacher and self-described community activist, came right down John Garland Blvd. to chaperone those youngsters to school, calming their anxiety. “We have hard-working people in this community,’’ he said. “You can see the kids going to school; they love school. But they’re starting to understand what’s going on. They see the growing gap between the rich and the poor in Toronto.’’
The shooting transforms quickly into an indictment of social malaise unaddressed. “We’re still not providing the appropriate resources that this community needs,’’ Barriffe continued. “And this is another example of it. If we don’t deal with the roots of this problem, this is what’s going to continue to happen. It’s got to stop. We’re scared, there’s no doubt. We don’t like what’s been going one. Nobody wants violence in their community.’’
But they’ve known it intimately.
This is Jamestown Crips territory, in the slice-by-slice infestation of street gang activity, criminality that coalesces around the city’s poorest and most marginalized neighborhoods.
With the homicide investigation still in its infancy, it’s too soon to make any assumptions about what happened on the backside of John Garland and why. Other shootings in recent weeks and months, however, have been testament to purported gang wars blazing, between factions and also within, with members apparently vying for leadership. Police have identified the Galloway Boys as culprits in a slew of violent episodes and purported revenge killings.
Yet Jamestown Cres. has seemed outside the havoc that has seized areas in distant Scarborough, uninvolved — unless the skirmishes are now mutating and expanding, bleeding beyond geographical boundaries. In this wedge of the city, the most notable recent violence — blamed on squabbling between the Jamestown Crips, the Mount Olive Crips (farther north) and the Doomstown (Rexdale) Crips — dates back to a spate of feud shooting three and four years ago.
Just this past July, Jamestown Crips member Awet (Dolo) Asfaha was sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder of Michael Kim Bishen Golaub, gunned down in August 2009. The innocent 34-year-old father of four — no gang affiliation — was slain as he chatted with a friend at a backyard barbecue, ambushed from behind. A second accused, Christopher (Hitz) Sheriffe, was convicted of second-degree murder in that killing, denying prosecution contentions that he was the leader of Jamestown sub-group called The Hustle Squad.
In April, Jermaine Gager of the Doomstown Crips also received a life term in the 2008 murder of Darnell Grant, 31, a father of six and innocent bystander. Grant had been walking to a visit a friend on Driftwood Ct. when three men unleashed a spray of gunfire. Court heard that the outburst — a fusillade of 22 bullets — was intended as a display of intimidation by Doomstown Crips driving into Driftwood Crips territory. Justice Robert Clark observed contemptuously: “You were such a pathetic marksman that you only managed to hit one person. It boggles the mind, the senselessness of this violence.’’
That gang violence brought extra police flooding into the district, much to the approval of a besieged community. For a while, it worked. But gang activity is never quelled for long.
At John Garland Blvd., as the meat trucks pulled away Tuesday morning, one long-time resident shrugged his shoulders. “Just another chapter in the memoirs of growing up in Jamestown.’’
Rosie DiManno usually appears Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
Source: Toronto Star – thestar.com
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