Two of the young men who appear in a photograph with Mayor Rob Ford have been named by police as members of a violent Etobicoke gang and face an array of criminal charges, according to court documents released on Friday.
Police arrested Mohammad Khattak and Monir Kasim along with 26 others in a dramatic gang sweep on Thursday. The busts focused on several residential towers notorious for guns and drugs lining Dixon Road between Islington and Kipling avenues.
Both men are listed in court documents among a group of people charged with trafficking cocaine for the Dixon City Bloods, the Etobicoke gang at the centre of a year-long investigation called Project Traveller.
Mr. Khattak is also charged with trafficking marijuana, while Mr. Kasim faces several other changes, including trafficking weapons and marijuana for the gang, theft and failing to comply with conditions of his house arrest in April, and conspiring to obtain a gun around May.
On May 16, a photograph showing the blurred faces of Mr. Khattak and a previously unidentified man alongside homicide victim Anthony Smith and Mr. Ford emerged with reports in the Toronto Star and the New-York gossip site Gawker.com of an alleged video showing Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine. A source with knowledge of the people in the photograph told the Globe Thursday the unidentified man was Mr. Kasim.
According to both media outlets, the man trying to sell the alleged video supplied the snapshot as evidence of the mayor’s connections to the drug scene. The story and the accompanying photo have dogged the mayor of Canada’s largest city for nearly a month – spurring six departures from his office staff and leading to a call from one councillor that he take a leave of absence.
Of the four men in the picture, one – 21-year-old Anthony Smith – is dead, and two are in custody. The fourth, Mr. Ford, has declined to answer questions about his relationship to the three young men in the photograph taken outside 15 Windsor Road, a home occupied by a childhood friend of the mayor and situated 300 metres from the site of Thursday’s raids. Dennis Morris, Mr. Ford’s lawyer, has 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.
The mayor, who has provided a brief statement responding to the crack video allegations – “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine” – said on Thursday he was proud of the police work in his city. Mr. Smith was killed on March 28 in a shooting that wounded Mr. Khattak.
Mr. Kasim’s mother, Fatima Mukhtar, said her son’s arrest has been a nightmare. Meanwhile, Mr. Khattak’s lawyer, Nathan Gorham, said Mr. Khattak was devastated by a decision to deny him bail.
At a morning news conference on Friday, police revealed that Project Traveller led to a previous arrest in Mr. Smith’s slaying and promised more arrests against the now-depleted Dixon City Bloods.
The gang is based along the Dixon Road corridor, but its tentacles stretch from U.S. border crossings in Windsor all the way to Alberta, said Staff Supt. James Ramer, standing next to a display of 40 sub-machine guns, hand-guns, sawed-off shotguns and other firearms seized in the operation. “This is not a low-level street gang,” he said. “They are extremely well organized and extremely violent.”
Among the 300 charges laid on Thursday, two were for attempted murder. Ayanle Omar, who faces a total of 19 charges, is accused of stabbing James Antoine Bedford on May 19. Two days later on May 21, police allege Arafat Mousa tried to shoot and kill Ahmed Siad.
The precise locations of the attempted murders are not listed in the court documents.
Supt. Ron Taverner, commander of the North Etobicoke police district where most of the raids took place, vowed that the conclusion of Project Traveller would mark the beginning of Project Clean Slate, intended to keep a lid on attempts to fill the criminal void left by the arrests and make good with Dixon Road residents shaken up by the raids.
Part of that involves the constant presence of the Somali Outreach Team, which arrived shortly after the arrests and will maintain a visible presence for months to come. “We’re here to mend fences,” Sergeant Chris Laush said Friday morning.
They are trying to placate residents such as LIana Lima, who says she plans to move from the Dixon Road area. “I would stay,” she said, “if things got better.”
With reports from Kaleigh Rogers, Cynthia McQueen and Shannon Kari