As Toronto Mayor Rob Ford continued to avoid speaking to issues surrounding the alleged crack video for a fifth straight day, more questions are being raised about his relationship to a man that was gunned down on Toronto’s streets in March.
While the contents of the video have not been made public, a picture of the mayor in a sweatshirt standing beside 21-year-old Anthony Smith also surfaced last week as news of the video broke. The picture was posted on the American website Gawker.
As the mayor avoided reporters Tuesday, many councillors, including at least one member of his own executive, said he needs to address the allegations. Councillor Paula Fletcher, a critic of the mayor in the past, said Mr. Ford needs to explain to Toronto residents why he is pictured during what appears, by his clothing, to be off hours with Mr. Smith.
“If the allegations are true, I think many people will be bitterly disappointed because of course he’s been outspoken against guns and gangs and if these allegations are true it appears he’s been hanging out with the guns and gangs crowd and that’s a very serious matter,” Ms. Fletcher said.
Mr. Smith was gunned down with a friend, Mohammed Khattak, 19, outside a downtown nightclub in the early-morning hours of March 28. Mr. Smith died, but Mr. Khattak recovered from his injuries.
The shooting sent bullets flying through the intersection of King Street West and Portland at a time when the streets were packed with club-goers.
In a community bulletin, Toronto Police stated the gunfire was “not a random act of violence” but a targeted hit and eventually charged 23-year-old Nisar Hashimi with first-degree murder.
Mr. Hashimi’s lawyer, John Struthers, said on Tuesday he was as surprised as anyone to learn of his client’s tenuous connection to the Ford photo and is awaiting disclosure to bring him up to speed on the Crown’s allegations.
Asked about the photograph, Mr. Ford’s lawyer Dennis Morris told The Globe and Mail that as he understands it the picture has nothing to do with the video and was taken on another occasion.
“The photo is a photo and apparently one of the individuals in the photo has passed away,” Mr. Morris said. “That photo is just like if you stop the Mayor on the street and say ‘Can I have a photo with you?’ That’s all that was.”
A growing number of councillors say the mayor cannot refuse comment and expect these latest allegations to go away.
“He needs to say something,” said Peter Milczyn, a member of Mr. Ford’s executive committee. “If he chooses just to ignore it, everybody in the city is left hanging and questioning his judgment.”
The longer the mayor remains silent, the more his response becomes the story, Mr. Milczyn said.
But Councillor Frances Nunziata, one of Mr. Ford’s most loyal allies, said the press needs to leave the mayor alone.
“He’s not on the run. He has spoken to the media. He has spoken to the media three times,” she said. “To have the media constantly, constantly harass him. It’s really unacceptable.”
On Friday, Mr. Ford spoke briefly to reporters, first outside his home and later at his office. In both cases he dismissed the stories as “ridiculous” and refused to answer questions.
Councillor Josh Matlow said he is dismayed by the damage the incident is doing to the city’s image. “I’m upset about how our city’s reputation had been dragged through the mud,” he said. “I want the mayor to put Toronto before himself.”
With a report from Justin Fauteux