Toronto police have made multiple arrests related to four murders and two shootings – the culmination of Project Sugar Horse, an investigation into crimes the head of the city’s homicide squad said were “ruthless” and, in some instances, totally random.
Thirteen charges against nine people came Thursday after a six-month probe into several high-profile shootings, including the targeted killing of 28-year-old Jermaine Smith, who was murdered in 2011 at a community barbecue on Dundas Street West, and the shooting of activist Kenneth Mark, who was shot in the head in 2008 while sitting on a planter on St. Clair Avenue West. He survived those injuries but was then shot and killed in December, 2009. Two of the Project Sugar Horse homicides and one of the attempted murders were deemed “random acts of violence” because of a lack of evidence to support motive, Staff Inspector Greg McLane told The Globe and Mail in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.
“It’s ruthless,” he said, after holding a press conference earlier in the day. “It’s unconscionable how that could occur.”
Police allege the random acts include: driving a car alongside a man walking in the Jane Street and Wilson Avenue area and asking him questions before shooting him; killing a man at a playground in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood; and murdering a man who was walking his dog in the same area. In the latter instance, a man allegedly chased the victim up a driveway and then put a bullet into his head before fleeing.
Although the accused know each other and are considered by police to be a “group of people actively engaged in criminal activities,” they don’t constitute a gang in the conventional sense of the word, Staff Insp. McLane said.
“There are certain thresholds to meet the status of ‘gang,’ and I’m not sure they’re there,” he said. “They’re not like, say for example, Crips or Bloods – it’s not like that with this group. They’re not unified under any gang name, at this point.”
According to a news release, those charged range in age from a 19-year-old – who could not be named because he was a young person at the time of his alleged offence against Mr. Mark – to 29-year-old Amanda Rumbolt, a.k.a. “White Millie,” who, along with five others, was charged with first-degree murder in one of two random killings in the Lawrence Heights area.
Daniel Davis, who was 27 years old when he died in 2012, was at a Flemington Road playground when, police allege, a group of men got out of three cars and “fired a number of rounds striking the victim,” Thursday’s news release says. Later in 2012, and again in the same neighbourhood, 24-year-old Marvin Engelbrecht was walking his dog when he was randomly shot dead.
Ms. Rumbolt, for her part, was also charged with attempted murder in the third random shooting – that of an 18-year-old man who was walking on the street when, after a car drove up beside him and occupants started asking questions, a man fired a number of shots at him.
Mr. Smith was killed at 4020 Dundas St. West, as was 27-year-old Delano Coombs, whose family attended the news conference Thursday afternoon. Mr. Coombs, who police say was targeted after a prior altercation, was found on a footpath suffering from gunshot wounds in 2012 and died in hospital.
Staff Insp. McLane said the force is still investigating whether the accused are connected to any other crimes, and he appealed for the public’s help in bringing people to justice.
“I know there are people who have witnessed these and other violent acts that have been perpetrated on individuals throughout the city in recent times,” he told The Globe. “We need these people to come forward. A failure to come forward would allow these offenders to continue to victimize their neighbourhoods – where they live and where they work.”
Also charged Thursday were: Aiman Khiar, a.k.a. “Bigz”; Jerome Bent, a.k.a. “Germz”; Dellan McMorris, a.k.a. “Young”; Shakeil Wheatle; Dwayne Willis, a.k.a. “Mafia”; Jathursan Rajarubakumar, a.k.a. “Yadi”; and Bershon Roach-Ferguson, a.k.a. “Bread.”