Ever since a photograph emerged of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford posing with Anthony Smith, a 21-year-old who was slain by gunfire in downtown Toronto, one question about the image has endured: Where was this photo taken?
Residents of Windsor Road, a street of detached homes in northwest Toronto, believe they have the answer: a beige brick bungalow where there is a steady stream of traffic and where police were called only two weeks ago after an alleged armed home invasion.
The bungalow on Windsor Road is near 320 Dixon Road, an apartment building that, according to a source in Mr. Ford’s office, was identified in a tip as being the location where an alleged video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine was being kept.
Mr. Ford has stated that no such video exists, and “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”
Dennis Morris, Mr. Ford’s lawyer, said that the mayor has his photo taken with many people every day and likely would have no recollection of the photo ever being taken. “Say somebody says ‘here, take a picture’ and it’s in front of a certain location. You have no idea that location may be involved in something illegal or improper, allegedly, that type of thing,” he said. “You as an innocent party have a photo taken. So where does that put you? It puts you as an innocent party.”
Throughout Thursday Mr. Ford was followed by a crush of reporters, but refused to answer any questions about the Windsor Road house.
Following a noon public appearance, The Mayor’s acting press secretary Sunny Petrujkic repeatedly told reporters to stop asking questions.
“Please don’t shout questions…do not shout any questions…no questions,” he said.
“Are we not allowed to ask questions?” asked a reporter as the Mayor walked out of sight.
At a late day press conference, Mr. Ford responded to media questions about the city's surplus budget figures for the 2012 budget released earlier this week, repeating his promise to cut Toronto's land transfer tax by 10 per cent and boasting about his administration's cost-cutting record.
But he still refused to respond when asked again about the family that lives at 15 Windsor Rd. and the circumstances behind the photo of him posing with Anthony Smith there, twice repeating “any other questions?”
“I guess there’s no more questions,” he said.
Mr. Petrujkic did not reply to multiple calls and e-mails on Wednesday requesting comment for this story.
The Globe and Mail does not know of a personal relationship between Mr. Ford and the residents of the house.
The house on Windsor Road is officially owned by an elderly couple. The neighbours believe the husband died in the past few years and say that the primary residents of the home are the grownup children, believed to be in their 40s.
Jerry Sorrentino, a 42-year-old plumber and Windsor Road resident, has urged the city for years to block the flow of foot traffic between the house and a nearby apartment complex known for gang violence.
Then, three weeks ago, the Toronto Star and Gawker, a U.S. gossip website, published a photograph that showed Mr. Ford posing after dark with three young men – including Mr. Smith, who was shot and killed on March 28. Something dawned on Mr. Sorrentino: The backdrop captured in the photograph looked identical to the driveway of the house on Windsor Road.
“I started looking at [the house] the other day,” he said in an interview. “It’s [the one] he’s standing outside of.”
Mr. Sorrentino pulled out his smartphone to show a reporter the image of Mr. Ford and Mr. Smith, which drug dealers reportedly provided to the Toronto Star and Gawker in an apparent effort to prove their bona fides before they attempted to sell a video of the mayor allegedly smoking crack cocaine.
Mr. Sorrentino pointed to an electrical box on the left side of the frame: “They have that electrical box.” He also noted that an electrical cord hanging in front of the garage in the photograph is consistent with how the house appeared Wednesday. The house in the photograph also has beige brick and a black garage door. A two-wheeled shopping cart, part of which appears in the photograph, was also in the driveway Wednesday.
A man who was walking away from the house Wednesday denied living there or knowing the mayor. A person who answered the phone at the home hung up during repeated attempts to speak with the home’s owner.
The brick bungalow is only 300 metres from 320 Dixon Road, the apartment building where a source from Mr. Ford’s office has said the alleged video was held. On May 17, the day after the crack-cocaine allegations surfaced, David Price, a senior adviser to the mayor and a long-time friend of the Ford family, informed the mayor’s then chief of staff, Mark Towhey, that he was told that the video was being kept in 320 Dixon Road, and that he had the the unit number, the source said. Mr. Price could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
Windsor Road’s proximity to 320 Dixon has created headaches for homeowners. In 2011, city council approved the construction of a chain-link fence, which has since been erected, to block young adults from using Windsor Road as a thoroughfare. The political champion of the fence was Etobicoke North Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s older brother, who presented a 121-signature petition in favour of the fence to Etobicoke Community Council.
Councillor Ford said Thursday morning he is not familiar with the house on Windsor Road or the family that is reported to live there. “I don’t even know what you are talking about. What house? Maybe I didn’t listen to the news this morning.”
Neighbours interviewed by The Globe say the fence has not prevented a few young people from heading to the house on Windsor Road. Neighbours also reported seeing police cruisers at the house on a handful of occasions, and on the night of May 21, neighbours said that half a dozen police cruisers, and what appeared to be a forensic identification truck, arrived at the property.
Toronto Police spokesperson Tony Vella said there was an armed home invasion at that house that evening at 11 p.m., when a man forced his way inside and assaulted two people. The victims of that attack were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and no arrests have been made though the investigation continues.
A husband and wife in a neighbouring home said they heard shouting that evening. “Help me, help me, help me,” the wife heard from the bungalow, a plea that was followed by “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.”
With reports from Stephanie Chambers, Elizabeth Church and Kat Sieniuc