A 28-year-old Somali-Canadian found fatally shot in an expensive Toronto apartment building Saturday night was killed by a single gunshot wound to the chest, an autopsy has found.
But as to why Hussein Hussein died, Detective Sergeant Dan Nielsen of the homicide squad said it was too soon to speculate whether the killing was tied to the rash of drug violence that has plagued Somali-Canadians in Ontario and Alberta over the past seven years.
“It’s early to have a theory, we’re still in the evidence-gathering phase,” he said. “We have a lot of video and there’s a lot of people we’re in the process of talking to. Obviously we’re looking into his past.”
It was also unclear whether a robbery took place, Det. Sgt. Nielsen said, and there was no description of a vehicle in which the killer or killers may have fled.
Mr. Hussein, Toronto’s 25th homicide victim this year, was well known to police. Court records show that at various times dating back to 2002, he had been charged with robbery, theft, possession of drugs and failing to comply with a court order, and was convicted on at least two of those charges.
Also known as “Biggie,” he had spent time in Alberta as well, Det. Sgt. Nielsen confirmed, without elaborating. According to Alberta Somali-Canadian sources, Mr. Hussein lived in Fort McMurray from 2006 to 2010.
Locals said he was in the drug trade, but moved to Ontario a couple of years ago as violence within the business, including numerous homicides, began to escalate.
“Everyone knows him,” one source said.
Word of his death spread quickly across Alberta and in the oil sands city, as Somali-Canadian community leaders sought answers.
Toronto EMS were called to the ninth floor of 100 Harrison Garden Blvd., near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue, shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday.
It is a distinctly upscale address, with one-bedroom apartments in the Tridel-built complex selling for around $350,000.
Mr. Hussein had been living at the address temporarily, Det. Sgt. Nielsen said, perhaps with friends. It was a fellow occupant of the ninth-floor apartment who came out and asked neighbours to call 911.
Together with a group of young men who may or not be suspects, that person then quickly left the building and was gone when the ambulance arrived. The group consisted of four or five casually dressed young black males who appeared to be of African descent but who, Det. Sgt. Nielsen said, “may have no involvement in this at all.”
A long-time friend of Mr. Hussein in Toronto who had known the slain man for many years said he was definitely a player in the Toronto-Alberta drugs connection, and that there had been two previous attempts on his life.
At the same time, however, the friend suggested that Mr. Hussein’s death may have been an accident.
He said he had been told there were several people in the apartment at the time, including at least a couple of relatives, and that along with alerting authorities, members of the group also tried to reach Mr. Hussein’s family before fleeing.
Since 2005, at least 23 Somali-Canadians have been killed in Alberta. Most of the deaths remain unsolved, and many of the young victims had come from Toronto to work in Edmonton or Fort McMurray.
Others, like Mr. Hussein and Ahmed Hassan, another recent high-profile homicide victim, died after returning to Toronto from Alberta. Earlier this month, Mr. Hassan, 24, was one of two men killed in a brazen daylight shooting at Toronto’s Eaton Centre shopping mall. He had been living in Alberta, where he was charged with cocaine trafficking in 2010, but moved back to Toronto shortly before he was killed.
The death toll has led to calls from community leaders for governments to do more to help young Somali-Canadians find employment opportunities and better support networks.
An estimated 80,000 Somali-Canadians live in Toronto, according to community leaders, and another 3,000 now live in Fort McMurray, the epicentre of Alberta’s lucrative oil patch.
Many work in the oil fields or in manufacturing jobs nearby, capitalizing on a boom that has attracted job seekers from across the country.
But a minority of Somali-Canadians who made the trek west have become involved in the city’s drug trade, selling crack cocaine and the powdered form of the drug for much higher profits than they would make working low-skill jobs in the area.
The trade has turned deadly for some, as rivalries forged in Toronto are revived in Alberta and dealers battle for customers and cash.