A 23-year-old tow truck driver was shot and killed in Toronto’s west end Thursday night – the region’s fourth towing-related homicide in a year and a half – as violence within the industry continues to escalate.
Hashim Kinani was sitting in his tow truck when he was shot around 7:42 p.m. in the parking lot of a housing complex on Panorama Court in Etobicoke.
Police are seeking two suspects in connection with the shooting.
Toronto Police Homicide Detective Sergeant Ted Lioumanis said Friday that Mr. Kinani was new to the towing business, and that it was too early to say whether his killing is connected to the continuing tow truck turf war that has been raging across the GTA.
Since December, 2018, three other Toronto-area men with ties to the towing industry have also been killed.
Lingathasan Suntharamoorthy, 36, was affiliated with a towing company when he was shot and killed inside his high-rise apartment, near Kennedy Road and Highway 401 in January, 2019.
Tow truck driver Lawrence Taylor Gannon, 28, was shot execution-style in the driveway in front of his mother’s house around 10:30 p.m. in April, 2019. He died in hospital later.
Both of those cases remain unsolved.
York Regional Police recently revealed that the Christmas Eve 2018 murder of Soheil Rafipour, 33, is also linked to towing. Mr. Rafipour, as well as at least two of the four people charged this spring in his death, had ties to the industry, police say.
In addition to these slayings, there have been several non-fatal shootings involving the industry and dozens of trucks set on fire. In the past week alone, at least seven trucks have been set on fire – including one around 12:40 a.m. Friday morning, just hours after Mr. Kinani was killed.
An hour after that, another man who was parked in his car near Kennedy Road and Shropshire Drive in Toronto’s east end was shot at by men who had pulled up in two tow trucks.
Joey Gagne, president of the Canadian Towing Association, said Friday that the violence is out of control.
The fighting stems from a particular segment of the business known as collision towing, or “accident chasing.”
It’s an open secret that some body shops and rehab clinics will pay kickbacks to tow truck drivers for bringing them business. As a result, a single car can yield thousands of dollars, and “chasers” are racing each other to every job.
Mr. Gagne, who is also president of Abrams Towing, a 200-truck operation based in Southern Ontario, is concerned that the violence is going to scare good people out of the business – particularly during the pandemic, when the industry has already been hard hit.
He and other industry stakeholders have long been calling for reform, including provincewide licensing and oversight.
Currently, tow truck operations are licensed in Ontario at a municipal level, but just 17 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities have such a system, according to the Canadian Automobile Association, which provides towing and roadside assistance services to its members.
As a result, the industry is governed by a confusing and contradictory patchwork of rules – particularly on provincial highways, where most municipal bylaws do not apply.
The provincial government has said it is concerned about the violence and is examining potential solutions.
Mr. Gagne said regulations will be useless if they do not address one of the root causes of the industry’s problems: the “first available” policy that enables chasing in the first place.
In his view, there should be designated contracted companies, or at least a rotation system – so that motorists can feel confident that any truck that shows up is legitimate and accountable.
“Until they remove that [first-available system] there’s going to be this rogue element of operators that are running around,” Mr. Gagne said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated. A judicial order had been granted to name a 17-year-old wanted in connection with the shooting. That order has expired and the name has been removed.
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