Toronto’s first gun-murder victim of 2013 is a 15-year-old football fan who was planning to spend his Friday afternoon playing XBox with friends, according to those who knew him.
His death is the second homicide of the year in Toronto and the third within a single building – 605 Whiteside Place, near Dundas Street East and River Street – since 2010.
Emergency crews arrived at the Regent Park building shortly after 2 p.m., but malfunctioning elevators forced them to hike up to the 13th floor, where they found the victim slumped in a stairwell with multiple gunshot wounds.
He was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
By 5 p.m., several emotional friends had gathered just beyond the police tape behind the 14-storey building. “This can’t be real, this can’t be,” one girl screamed.
“I was supposed to be at his house right now.”
One member of the group, a 17-year-old male who refused to give his name for fear of retribution, identified the victim as Tyson Bailey.
Police could not confirm the name.
The teen said Tyson was a running back for the Central Technical School football team and that they’d known one another “since we were in diapers.”
The long-time pals had agreed by text to meet at the Bailey home that afternoon for a few hours of channel-surfing and gaming. “He had Black Ops and Madden NFL on XBox. That was all we were planning to get up to.”
When he heard Tyson may have been involved in the shooting, the friend rushed to St. Michael’s.
“I was praying the whole way that it wasn’t him, but then I got the bad news,” he said.
“We grew up playing Raptorball [youth basketball] together. He was always selective with his friends. He’s not one to get into trouble like this. I’m thinking it was a mistaken identity.”
Police found shell casings at the crime scene. By late Friday, they had extended the area under investigation to a new playground and parts of a neighbouring construction zone behind the building and appeared to be scouring the thin snow-cover for evidence.
The surrounding area of Regent Park has undergone a makeover in recent years. Once considered an urban slum, it is slowly becoming known for gleaming condos, a state-of-the-art aquatic centre and fine dining.
Even so, violence still plagues the area. The teen is not the first to die or be seriously wounded in the building, part of Canada’s oldest public-housing development. On Oct. 9, 2010, 15-year-old Sealand White and Jermaine Derby, 19, were shot in the lobby of the Whiteside Place building.
The double homicide remains unsolved.
Many of the residents of the building were on their cell phones, panic and confusion on their faces on Friday.
Tyson Phan, who lives in the building, is the same age as the boy who lost his life.
He said the shooting makes him feel like “any of us could be a victim.”
“It’s tragic because we have many people living here,” he said.
“At times I [feel safe] and at times I don’t.”