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The Globe and Mail

Slain Brampton, Ont., boy remembered as happy child

Pictures and tributes to Kesean Williams are seen in the foyer of Sir Winston Churchill school in Brampton, Ont., Jan. 24, 2013. The nine-year-old boy died after being hit by a stray bullet fired outside his family’s townhouse.

Peel District School Board

Kesean Williams had lived in his Brampton townhouse for less than two weeks before his life was cut short on Wednesday night by a bullet fired through his living room window.

Home for Kesean, for almost all of his nine years, was a three-bedroom apartment on the eighth floor of Meridian Co-operative Homes in Hamilton's gritty north end.

His mother, Tanya Garvey, was a single mom and nursing-home worker and had lived at the co-op since 1999. Kesean was born there, and attended Dr. J. Edgar Davey School, just up the street.

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At the Hamilton co-op, photos of the slain child adorn the lobby and the door of property manager Johanna Crites.

Ms. Crites and co-op board member Linda Cullum painted a picture of a contented family who never caused trouble of any kind.

Kesean's father would occasionally visit, the two women said, but they knew little about him.

The boy, like his 15-year-old brother, Kajan, was "always friendly, always said hi," said Ms. Cullum, who has lived in the building for four years.

The brothers were also good citizens, she said, "because that's how their mother raised them."

Though she described Ms. Garvey as a private person who "would only tell you what she wanted you to know," she said she was a pleasant woman who helped out in the community whenever she could.

Peel Regional Police emphasized that the family was not known to police, and while it is early in their investigation, they said they have not uncovered any evidence that the killer knew the victim.

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At the same time, however, as neighbourhood rumours swirled that the intended target was likely a previous resident of the Brampton townhouse, perhaps because of drug dealing, a Peel police source said that as far as he knew those earlier tenants had never been visited by police.

The family's Hamilton friends hold their experiences and memories of the family close as they mourn Kesean's death.

Jaiden Holly-Cowley, 14, said she and her siblings always walked home from school with the Kesean since her younger sister was in the same class.

"He looked up to me as a big sister," said Jaiden. "He had a lot of friends, he was the popular one … He was always happy no matter what came his way."

In an e-mail to The Globe and Mail, Jaiden repeatedly mentioned Kesean's sense of humour and love for sports, and added that he would always let her ride his bicycle.

"He was also the bravest kid I knew," she said. "I'm extremely sad he is gone and there was so much more to his life."

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Graciella Adams, 14, was introduced to Kesean through her aunt, who met Kesean's mother when the two were in a foster home. Both Tanya and Graciella's aunt were pregnant at the time, and stayed in touch throughout and after their pregnancies.

"He never had intentions to hurt others and always tried to be the best friend he could be," said Graciella in an e-mail. "He loved his mom and looked up to [his brother.]"

She added that the nine-year-old basketball fan cared about more than sports; he was a great student who was always "respectful and aware of others' feelings."

After four months in another Brampton residence, the Williams family moved onto Ardglen Drive about a week ago – a street described by neighbours as "low income," with a reputation for vandalism and drug use.

Gun crime has been on the rise in Toronto, resulting in a litany of fatalities and injuries to children and teens.

However, Larry Zacher, executive director of community group Brampton Safe City, thinks Kesean's murder was an isolated incident.

"It's hard to tell whether it's a rising increase in gun violence," said Mr. Zacher. "These things come in waves … But any time there's gun violence, it concerns us as a community – and as an individual – because we don't like to see that, particularly where an innocent victim is killed."

Brampton's homicide rate epitomizes the "waves of violence" that Mr. Zacher referred to: While the city had 12 murders in 2008, last year there were only three.

Mr. Zacher added that there is currently a lack of data on Brampton's gangs, a situation that sparked the launch of the Community Gang Assessment Project.

The project involves 200 community leaders and 20 agencies – including Peel Regional Police and the Ontario Provincial Police – seeking to shed light on how many, and why, young people become gang members.

While much research needs to be done, Mr. Zacher said the following qualities are often a catalyst for gang violence: poverty, racial tension, lack of education and the inability to find work.

On Friday, Peel Regional Police did not provide any updates on the investigation into Kesean's slaying or who the suspect – or suspects – could be.

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