Chris Doucette, Toronto Sun, July 17, 2012
A barbecue ended in bloodshed as a reckless exchange of gunfire erupted in an east-end neighbourhood late Monday killing a 14-year-old girl and 23-year-old man and wounding 21 others, including a toddler.
The mass shooting, the worst in the city’s history, occurred around 10:40 p.m. during a “large” house party and sent a throng of people running for their lives from 193 Danzig St., just south of Lawrence and Morningside Aves.
“I’ve been a cop for 35 years and this is the worst incident of gun violence in my memory anywhere in North America,” Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said at the scene shortly after the bullets stopped flying.
The city’s top cop was obviously distraught and had difficulty finding the words to describe how he was feeling about the shooting that he called “unprecedented” for Toronto.
“It’s a very shocking event,” Blair said. “A lot of innocent people were injured tonight.”
It’s believed more than 200 partygoers were at the barbecue, described as an annual event by area residents. People were listening to music one second and dodging bullets the next.
Blair said “an altercation broke out among some individuals and there was an exchange of gunfire.”
Shyanne Charles, 14, and a man, 23, were killed.
At an 11 a.m. news conference Tuesday, Blair said police believe two people fired shots and there was a “strong indication” of gang involvement in the incident.
One handgun was recovered.
In addition to the two dead, who Blair described as innocents, 21 people ranging in age from 22 months to 33 years were hit by gunfire, and one is in critical condition. Earlier Blair said three were also hurt in the stampede as the crowd fled.
The 22-month-old child was grazed by a bullet but the chief said the child’s injuries are not life-threatening.
“This is the most serious crime of its kind that has ever taken place in the City of Toronto,” an emotional Blair said at the scene. “I think every citizen in Toronto will be a little shaken up by what has transpired here in Scarborough tonight.
“It’s a shocking incident,” he said, adding he expects people across the country will be stunned.
The aftermath of the terrifying shooting was chaotic.
A total of 16 ambulances, some from the surrounding regions, and the Toronto EMS bus responded to the scene and rounded up victims, some of whom fled the immediate area.
Paramedics assessed patients and whisked them away to Sunnybrook, St. Mike’s and Scarborough 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.”
Cops from across the city responded to the shooting.
Homicide detectives, officers from the Gun and Gang Unit, Intelligence Unit, ETF and 43 Division all spent the night at the scene gathering evidence and interviewing to witnesses.
“A lot of people fled the scene, but a lot of them have come back and are talking to us,” Blair said, adding investigators have some “good leads” and have already made “significant progress.”
One man, who was among the wounded, was taken into custody and Blair said he is “a person of interest.”
A handgun was found at the scene but the chief said more than one firearm was involved.
“This is a very serious crime and it demands our full effort to bring the persons responsible for this to justice,” he said.
Blair offered his “most sincere condolences and support” to the families of those who were killed and injured in the “senseless violence.”
“This is a tremendously frightening and tragic event for all involved,” he said.