TORONTO—A bloody public shooting at a Scarborough block party has stunned the city after a string of similar incidents in previous weeks. The gunfight was the fourth public shooting of the summer in the Greater Toronto Area.
At 10:40 p.m. on Monday, Toronto Police received multiple calls about a shooting on Danzig Street, near Lawrence Avenue East and Morningside Avenue. They arrived at the scene to find 23 injured and two dead.
The victims were identified as 14-year-old Shyanne Charles from Toronto and 23-year-old Joshua Yasay from Ajax. Both were innocent bystanders killed when perpetrators fired into the crowd, which contained upwards of 100 party-goers.
Police Chief Bill Blair said at a media conference on Tuesday that the shooting originated from an altercation involving two individuals that escalated.
‘We’re Torn Apart’
“[They] start shooting guns because they want to be something cool, they want to be remembered as something, when really they’re nothing, because they took away someone that we can never get back,” said friend of the deceased Shyanne Charles, who declined to give her name.
She added, tearful and angry, “This was a community, a family, and we all want to be just one. Now we’re torn apart and we may never even be the same.”
Anthony Parker, another person from the area, said his neighbour’s daughter was shot twice. The 19-year-old is currently in Sunnybrook Hospital, in a stable condition.
“She was an aspiring basketball star,” Parker said, adding that he hoped this would not hamper her chances to fulfill her dream.
Brenda Parnhan said she came out 10 minutes after the shooting and found a scene of complete pandemonium. “It was chaos,” she said, recalling that there seemed to be endless numbers of police cars and ambulances.
She said she lived in East York for 27 years before moving here. During her four years in the area, she heard of a few things happening, but “nothing like this.”
“You should be able to go to a party and enjoy yourself,” she said.
Not all residents are so worried, however. One man who moved here from California said the area is “very safe” compared to the U.S. He said he slept through the shooting and only found about it afterwards. He declined to give his name.
No Room in Toronto for Gangs: Ford
On Tuesday, Mayor Rob Ford released a statement condemning gang activity for causing the deaths of innocent people. “A fun, family-focused community event quickly turned into a violent nightmare,” he said.
Ford said he does not know if the rumours of a brewing gang war are true, but regardless, “it’s time for us to declare war on these violent gangs.”
He said he spoke to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty earlier that day, and he plans to speak to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to figure out a way to combat gang violence.
The Lawrence and Morningside incident is the latest in a series of high-profile shootings in public areas. On June 2, a shooting in the Eaton Centre killed one man on the spot and injured half a dozen others, one of whom later succumbed to his injuries. Police allege that the shooter and the two deceased were part of the same gang.
A little over two weeks later, a man opened fire in broad daylight in Toronto’s Little Italy neighbourhood. The perpetrator killed his target and injured another person.
Another shooting happened during a Canada Day fireworks show, injuring a man in the vicinity of numerous bystanders.
Though Toronto still lags far behind American cities like Detroit and Chicago for homicides, the latest slew of shootings has pundits wondering about the underlying reasons.
In a column for the Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente blamed the breakdown of families.
Wente wrote that children born to unmarried women tend to do worse than those with two married parents. Children of single parents are not worn down by “material poverty” but rather a poverty of “expectations, role models, structure, consistency, discipline, and support.”
Several residents in the Lawrence and Morningside area take a simpler view of things. They believe that the party was a dangerous idea.
“[The host] hosts the party every single year, and something happens every time,” one resident said, though she admitted previous incidents were “not like this.”
She called for a controlled party with police monitoring the scene.
With files from Becky Zhou.
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