Caribana is coming up, be prepared for more violence. Almost every year there’s a shooting there too.
In half a dozen hospital emergency departments, doctors and nurses raced to stanch the blood from a mass shooting.
But what will stanch the blood-lust?
The outrageous violence that erupted at a Scarborough backyard party — two dead, 23 others hit by the fusillade from at least a couple of handguns blazing, one woman trampled in the ensuing stampede to flee — is likely not done and finished.
There will be echoes, police fear. There could be retaliation. Because that’s what gang-bangers do: tit-for-tat, fire-for-fire. “Spray and pray,” as one veteran cop put it — weapon over the shoulder and shooting randomly while the legs are moving away.
A 14-year-old local girl is slain.
A 23-year-old man from Ajax is zipped into a body-bag.
A 22-month-old grazed.
So many injured and dispersed that, by Tuesday afternoon, two previously uncounted had come forward to say they’d been hit.
It was late Tuesday morning before the deceased were removed, hours after forensic technicians had begun to work the scene.
“We were waiting for the coroner,’’ said Det. Paul Worden of the homicide squad, as he helped to organize canvassing of the area. “We’re sometimes at their mercy — how busy they are and (whether they) can get here.’’
It was only by the grace of God that the morgue wasn’t even busier on a night when this city was sweating bullets.
Some of the victims were struck more than once. The casualty count was remarkably low for the sheer scope of the shooting, at a neighborhood block barbecue that had drawn upwards of a hundred revelers, more than a few apparently lured by the promise of free booze.
Empty bottles still littered the grass behind the Danzig Street Toronto Housing complex.
This time, cops didn’t even pretend the bloodbath was an isolated and abnormal incident, indicative of nothing, just one “idiot with a gun.” Such a scenario beggared belief a month ago, at the Eaton Centre. The reassuring lie couldn’t pass the police chief’s lips, either.
“Certainly the type of violence that we saw, that very brazen violence, demonstrates depraved indifference to the lives and safety of others,’’ Chief Bill Blair told a news conference. “That is not uncharacteristic of people who are involved in gangs and the way in which they use violence.
“There is strong indication there may have been gang involvement.’’
Still a bit of a soft shuffle, elliptical, clearly intended to soothe fears of a resurrected gang war on the streets of Toronto, a repetition of the Summer of the Gun from seven years ago when the city rang loud with urban killings, the dead body detritus of gang-on-gang violence that prompted an aggressive infusion of guns-and-gangs task force investigators into hot-spot neighborhoods.
And the violence did taper off as detectives identified the gangs that were fighting for turf and settling their grudges at the end of a barrel. But the shootings have cranked up again: teenager Shyanne Charles and Joshua Yasay, Monday night’s murder victims, Toronto’s 27th and 28th homicides of 2012 as the killings stack up.
Neither were the intended targets; merely collateral damage to something scary happening here, in our midst.
Toronto woke up yesterday morning as a top-of-the-news flash bulletin around the globe, identified as a city of unprecedented violence — the same words Blair used to describe what had occurred — and thus wearing the shame of it, even if Mayor Rob Ford obstinately claimed otherwise when he appeared for a walk-through of the complex.
“I know this is the safest city in the world. I’ve always said that. I truly believe it. The numbers show that. Everybody has to move on, carry on with their life.’’
Don’t look now, mayor, but that’s precisely what those Scarborough residents were doing: having a communal life, children among those gathering at the barbecue. And this is what life looks like now in Toronto — police tape, scores of bullet casings strewn about, mothers sobbing, teenagers mumbling about payback.
It is not isolated. And the numbers belie Ford’s civic-boosting rhetoric.
The Twitter tom-tom thundered throughout the day, with threats posted about what might happen next. Even if most of it is testosterone blather, some of it sounds worrisomely genuine, at least in vague intent — the fug of violence-pending that hangs over the city.
Who would bring a gun to a barbecue? At minimum: two.
Who were they? On the record, detectives aren’t speculating. But sources say at least two gangs operate in that vicinity—the Danzig Boys and the Galloway Boys, the latter risen anew after key members were put behind bars for their involvement in shootings from a few years ago.
There had been rumbles that something was going to happen at this “blocko’’ barbecue. Police had actually responded to that address earlier Monday over noise complaints. And somebody claiming to be a Galloway Boy posted a video online that appeared to reference gang presence at an event Monday night: “Guide and protect my friends from the enemy tonight. Let us not war but party.’’
The twitchy aftermath is palpably weighing on Blair’s mind.
“We are very concerned, not only with the quick resolution and solving of this crime, but the potential for retaliatory violence, which we often see in this kind of event, where individuals seek vengeance for the violence that took place…’’
Blair promised the immediate deployment of extra police troops into neighborhoods where gangs are known to be active.
As of Tuesday evening police had “a person of interest’’ they were questioning, though not in formal custody. This individual appears to have been targeted in the shooting. Meanwhile, police are knocking on doors, retrieving surveillance video, interviewing victims — most of them treated and released — and beseeching the community for assistance.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that there were persons in attendance at this function who know the identity of those responsible for the murders and wounding of these citizens,’’ said Staff Sgt. Graham Gibson, the homicide lead investigator on this case. “It is to these people who attended the party that I am now appealing.
“With regard to the young age of the innocent victims and the sheer number of wounded individuals, those who are witnesses or who have information can make their families, friends and neighborhood safer by speaking with investigators from the homicide squad.’’
In an age of social media, there would have been plenty of people taking pictures on their smartphones or shooting video. Cops want it.
Local residents have complained the police response was slow Monday night. Yet the call came in about shots fired at 10:40 p.m., and police from nearby 43 Division were there “two minutes later,” according to the Toronto Police Service. EMS arrived at 10:46.
They were faced with chaos: Dozens running away from the scene, others descending in search of loved ones, a bus summoned to help transport victims — those who were mobile — because the fleet of ambulances couldn’t cope.
One witness, however, told the Star he watched a desperate mother pumping her teenage daughter’s blood-splattered chest, wailing, begging the girl to stay awake, stay conscious, as the victim sucked in bursts of air. “She was sucking air,’’ said Phil, who did not want to give his last name. “Then she took her last two breaths, real quick, then stopped.’’
That girl died. “Phil’’ insists no help arrived for her until 30 minutes had passed.
The barbecue — a “blocko,” as it’s known — was an event organized by the community, advertised as a fun Caribbean-themed party, featuring jerk chicken and DJs. Then it got crazed.
Donna Almarales got to the festivities about 20 minutes before gunfire shattered the night. “At first we thought it was nothing, maybe someone just playing around,’’ said Almarales. “And it turned out to be bloodshed.’’
From that point, it was pandemonium, party-goers seized by panic, people sprinting in all directions, many shouting the names of friends or loved ones. “We were just looking for dead bodies,’’ said Almarales.
On the side of the road, Almarales spotted a girl lying on the ground, a young man face-down beside her. He had blood on his back. “I tried slapping him to tell him to get up. He just didn’t move. He didn’t move at all.’’
On the morning after, there was palpable anger, aimed every which way, as the bullets had been. Anger at police for not preventing this horror; anger at politicians for draining away the funding that had previously supported community programs that might have diverted young local men from violence and the thrall of gangs; anger at the shooters.
Anthony Parker’s teenage daughter, Nicole, was supposed to attend the barbecue but then decided against it, fortuitously. Her close friend, however, went. That 19-year-old ended up shot in the hip and arm.
“Her father right now is with her at the hospital. He was saying something to the effect that maybe one of the bullets might have to be left in her hip because they can’t get at it.’’
Two years ago, Parker and some friends started up a group called Fathers Against Poverty to combat violence and provide adult male guidance for youths so they aren’t seduced by gangs.
“We’re tired of the gun violence, the proliferation of guns. We’re after the ones who are dropping the guns. It’s been one thing after another. It hurts that my friend’s daughter was shot. Our kids hang together. These girls in our neighborhood, they’re the life of the neighborhood. They walk free. They know their dads are there.”
Governments, says Parker, are not responsive. “It’s not their daughter. It’s not their wife crying. They’ve turned their back on us.’’
The gang culture has to be “cut off at the head,” said Parker. “If they don’t do that, they’ll keep coming back.’’
Yet Parker expressed some compassion, or at least understanding, for the sons who go astray.
“There’s no outlet for them. They’re talented musicians, they’re stars when it comes to sports. But they don’t get the chance so they turn to another source. Mommy and Daddy may have kicked them out of the house. Or if Mom has put (the father) out, if Daddy’s not there, then (the kid) is running the house, so he starts moving like a big man.’’
Fathers Against Poverty have planned a kiddie fair in the Morningside area next week. “Now I’m wondering who’s going to come and shoot it up.’’
That, sadly, is no longer paranoia talking.
They are heedless, the shooters. They are fearless. They don’t care about dying and they care even less about killing.