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John Raposo was remembered at his funeral Friday as a devoted family man and businessman. (J.P. MOCZULSKI FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
John Raposo was remembered at his funeral Friday as a devoted family man and businessman. (J.P. MOCZULSKI FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

CRIME

Little Italy shooting victim was a gang leader: police Add to ...

At his funeral Friday, in an ornate neo-Gothic Catholic church in downtown Toronto, black-clad mourners remembered John Raposo as a family man and entrepreneur. The 35-year-old was a confidant to his mother, loved his young son and had a passionate, spontaneous personality, ready to give his opinion on any subject.

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Police, meanwhile, knew Mr. Raposo as a low-level gang leader, once the main man in the McCormick Boys, a small west-end crew that bought drugs from Italian organized crime to push on the streets.

Why he was gunned down Monday on the crowded patio of the Sicilian Sidewalk Café in Little Italy has not been revealed, but police have charged Dean Wiwchar, 26, with first-degree murder. The Toronto-area man was remanded in custody. Outside court, his lawyer said he planned to plead not guilty.

While Mr. Wiwchar sat in a holding cell, some 200 people were gathering to pay respects to Mr. Raposo. Shortly after 9 a.m., six black-clad pallbearers wearing large white flowers on their lapels carried his casket out of the warm sunshine and into the dim interior of St. Mary’s Church on Bathurst Street.

There, his older sister Michelle said Mr. Raposo was a lively man with an easy smile who liked to come up with business ideas on the spur of the moment.

“He saw life as an adventure and he lived it to the fullest,” she told the largely Portuguese mourners.

In his sermon, Mr. Raposo’s priest recalled seeing him at his son’s baptism, where he held his child to his face.

“We will remember John for how he lived,” he said, “not for how he died.”

As a hymn played and mourners took Communion, Mr. Raposo’s 17-month-old son cried.

A police source familiar with Mr. Raposo for years said the man strayed from the upstanding lifestyle of his parents.

The McCormick Boys, who took their name from a park on the edge of Toronto’s Portuguese neighbourhood, had about 10 core members and perhaps twice as many associates. They were not major players, but their drug connections with the mob discouraged anyone from messing with them, the source said.

“[Mr. Raposo] was the head dude, he was the moneyman. You could talk with him but he was shady – smart and crafty, very good at dodging surveillance,” the police source said. “And when you talked to him it was all ‘Yes, sir; No, sir.’ ”

Mr. Raposo had sporadic run-ins with police, starting in 1997 when he was in his early 20s. Last year, he was accused of beating up a man over a gin rummy game at a Mississauga gambling den. He was set to stand trial next month.

But by all appearances, Mr. Raposo had done well for himself. He owned two pieces of property, including a place on Willard Avenue, in upscale Swansea, where he built a large new house for his family and was expecting a second child with his common-law wife.

The life of the man accused of killing him, by comparison, was tumultuous in recent years. A native of bucolic Stouffville, north of Toronto, Mr. Wiwchar has been in trouble with police much of his adult life.

In 2004 alone, he faced dozens of charges in Ontario courts. Reports at the time in the Toronto Sun and a Metroland community newspaper in York Region identified him as a suspect in a knife attack in a Markham pool hall, two robberies of fast food restaurants and a home invasion.

His lawyer, Christopher Avery, said Mr. Wiwchar was convicted in 2005 for robbery and sentenced to time in prison, some of which was served in British Columbia. He then racked up seven criminal convictions in Abbotsford and Agassiz, B.C., garnering jail time, a firearms ban and an order to provide a DNA sample.

After he got out of jail, Mr. Wiwchar remained in B.C., where he still has a girlfriend. One court document from 2011 listed him as living at a shelter on the gritty Downtown Eastside; later papers gave his address as an apartment building in the West End. It is unclear when he returned to Ontario.

Clad in dark pants and a white short-sleeved shirt, Mr. Wiwchar stood about 6 feet 3 inches tall in the prisoner’s box of a basement courtroom at Old City Hall. A man with a medium build and thick dark hair with tightly clipped bangs, he showed no reaction to the proceedings.

By the time he appeared in court, Mr. Raposo’s funeral had wrapped up, with mourners lingering a while outside the church. And over in Little Italy, the Sicilian had re-opened for business.

 

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