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Aspiring police officer, ‘joyful’ big sister remembered by friends and family

Joseph Bryan(tall in hat) mourns the death of 14-year-old Shyanne Charles with his family during a vigil outside an apartment building near her home in Toronto, June 17, 2012.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

He aspired to work as a police officer, she was a promising athlete and student.

On Monday night, after a hail of bullets tore through the community barbecue the two were attending with hundreds of others, Joshua Yasay, 23, and Shyanne Charles, 14, were both dead. At least 23 others were injured, including an infant who is in stable condition.

Shyanne was a happy girl with a large circle of friends and a love for basketball, her friends and acquaintances said.

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"She always had a smile on her face. She was generous and joyful and up and about," said friend Kionna Jones, 12. "She would never put anyone down."

The eldest of four children, Shyanne lived with her mother and siblings at a townhouse in a social housing complex in the Kingston-Galloway area, a working-class suburban neighbourhood of strip plazas and tenement apartment blocks.

She did well at school, excelling in English, especially. A tall basketball forward, she also frequented youth groups, including No Books, No Basketball, a program that combines study with sports. A worker at another program, Damon Maraj, described her as a "good person with a bright future."

There was no answer at the door of her family home Tuesday, but friends and neighbours stopped by throughout the day, hoping to offer their condolences to her mother.

"She's a lovely little girl, she's always out here playing," said Michelle Rodney, 42, who lives a few doors down. "People always come visit her."

Joshua Yasay, 23, was at the same barbecue as Shyanne on Monday night. Two of his close friends said they believe he went to the event with at least one other person he knew from a business he started in Ajax called Goodfellas Barber Lounge.

"I know he was just there to have fun," said Shomar Griffiths, who remembered Mr. Yasay as someone who was always in a good mood.

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He had recently graduated from York University with a bachelor's degree in criminology, and he had worked as a security guard at a financial building at King and Bay streets. "He wanted to be a cop," said Steven, 23, who declined to give his last name. "We were both going to apply."

In his spare time, Mr. Yasay volunteered, teaching kids to play basketball.

Steven visited the Yasay home Tuesday, where family members including his mother, stepfather and grandmother were mourning Mr. Yasay's death.

Steven said it was he who informed one of Mr. Yasay's two sisters about the young man's death in the morning hours following the shooting. He had been awake through the night, repeatedly calling Mr. Yasay's cellphone. Finally, at 3:47 a.m., he received a call from a friend who told him: "Josh is gone."

"He was always there if you needed him," Steven said, as he struggled through tears. "He was a big brother to me as much as I was to him."

Mr. Griffiths said the three friends used to spend every weekend together and had been inseparable since high school. "Now it's just Steven and I left."

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Samantha Power, 22, worked with Joshua at the Brock Street McDonald's in Whitby for about four years when they were teenagers.

"He was really compassionate and funny," she said. "He was very much a seize-the-day kind of guy."

All three friends said he was the perfect person to be around when you needed support.

"He was one of those people where you'd be in a bad mood and then you'd talk to him and you'd feel better," Ms. Power said. "You'd be laughing after."

In Scarborough on Tuesday, neighbours in Shyanne's tight-knit community milled about the complex where she had lived and sat on benches outside a nearby apartment building. They said they couldn't fathom how a simple twist of fate could leave an innocent teen dead.

"I'm still in denial," said Faith Black, 32. "She's a really good girl. She had a lot of friends. She was never in trouble."

Fighting tears, Kionna recalled the moment her mother told her that her friend had been killed.

"I was like 'No, it can't be true,'" she said. "She was really happy and every time you saw her, she smiled."

At a vigil for Shyanne on Tuesday night, the slain teen's grandfather delivered a clear message.

"No more hiding, no more secrecy. What you know, bring it forward," Tyrone Charles told some 200 people bearing candles in foam cups and pink flowers, exhorting them to break the wall of silence. "I don't want my granddaughter to be dead in vain."

Later, he said he remembered Shyanne as "an angel."

"She had a big heart," he said.

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About the Authors
Washington correspondent

Adrian Morrow covers U.S. politics from Washington, D.C. Previously he was The Globe's Ontario politics reporter. He's covered news, crime and sports for The Globe since 2010. He won the National Newspaper Award for politics reporting in 2016. More

Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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