TORONTO—A 14-year-old boy was abducted on his way to school as retribution for a massive “cocaine heist” executed by his stepbrother, Toronto police alleged on Thursday as they issued a plea for the teen’s safe return.
Supt. Steve Watts said the Amber Alert issued in relation to the disappearance of Shammah Jolayemi remains in effect nearly 36 hours after he was heard crying for help as he was forced into a vehicle near his home.
He said there has since been communication from his alleged abductors and police believe the boy is still alive, but offered no further details.
Watts said that while the teen’s stepbrother is suspected of involvement in high-level drug trafficking, Shammah himself had no such connection.
“This is a 14-year-old, innocent child,” Watts said at a news conference. “He is not a part of that business, he is not a part of that lifestyle.”
Police said Shammah was last seen at 8:30 a.m. near Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue in the city’s northwest corner where his family lives. Investigators previously said he was heard screaming “help me, help me” as he was forced inside a Jeep Wrangler.
Watts said a burned-out vehicle located near the town of Caledon, Ont., northwest of the city, is believed to be the Jeep in question.
Watts said bystanders reported Shammah’s cries for help to police, who launched an investigation, but the incident was not connected to an alleged abduction until the teen’s parents reported him missing shortly after 5:30 p.m.
The boy’s high school failed to notify his family of his day-long absence because his teachers missed an attendance reporting deadline, the Toronto District School Board said.
Spokesman Ryan Bird said four staff members at Newtonbrook Secondary School have been put on “home assignment” because their attendance data wasn’t submitted before 11 a.m. as required.
“We’re looking to confirm details right now, but what is clear is that attendance was not entered as it should have been,” Bird said.
Watts provided few details about the drug “rip'” that allegedly triggered Shammah’s abduction, but said it occurred in the summer of 2019 and involved approximately 100 kilograms of cocaine.
He said the boy’s stepbrother, Olalekan Osikoya, is suspected to have fled the Toronto area some time after the drugs were taken. He said officers have since made contact with Osikoya and he is co-operating with investigators.
News of Shammah’s disappearance came as a shock to Rita Smith, who helps run an entrepreneurship program for local high school students in which the teen has been participating since October.
Smith described Shammah as an outstanding participant who never misses a class and always asks “the best questions.” He is involved with other activities too, she said, including violin lessons and French immersion studies at Newtonbrook.
“He stood out in our class like a gem,” Smith said.
Shammah is described as about six feet tall, with a slim build. He was wearing a grey hoodie, grey track pants with a thin orange stripe, shiny black puffy coat, and black and yellow Air Jordan shoes.
The suspects who were last seen with him are described as men between 18 and 22 years old, who were wearing bandanas and black jackets.
Watts urged the suspects to release their captive alive and unharmed, saying the full weight of the Toronto police force has been thrown into the search.
“Drop him off at a safe place, contact a lawyer and turn yourselves in,” he said.