By michelle-lee : The recent gang-related shootings at Toronto’s Eaton Centre Mall has shocked the city – some hope enough to take action against the escalating gun violence in the city and surrounding areas. Christopher Husbands, the alleged shooter has been arrested. Two men, Ahmed Hassan, 24, and Nixon Nirmalendran, 22, died and five others were injured. The shootings sent the packed food court clientele scrambling for the exits, leaving parcels, purses, cell phones, etc. scattered everywhere. Some (including many children) hid under upturned tables and chairs. Hassan (who is believed to have been the target) died at the scene and Nirmalendran nine days later in hospital. Both of the deceased and Husbands are members of the Sic Thugz gang according to police.
The shootings are said to be in retaliation of a previous beating and torture of Husbands by his own gang members. They all live in an area known as Regent Park, Canada’s oldest social housing project and also one of the poorest according to Statistics Canada. Several blocks away a rival gang based in the Alexander Park Public Housing project is known as the Project Originals. The two gangs are reportedly involved in a gang war according to police. The incident at the Eaton Centre took place June 2nd – on June 8th police arrested Nicholas Dillon-Jack, 18, over stabbing and shooting incidents in the rival Dundas St. W. area (Project Originals territory). Regent Park has been plagued by violence in the last several months and residents say they are afraid and some complain that their children are traumatized. The Sic Thugz have been on the police radar for several years, members of the Project Originals since 2010. Members of both gangs have been involved in drug trafficking, weapons-related crimes, assaults and robberies.
The second victim, Nixon Nirmalendran, who was born in Somalia, had a lengthy rap sheet including robbery and implication in an inmate’s death while he was serving time at The Don Jail.
Husbands, who was born in Guyana, was out on $4,000 bail and was supposed to be under house arrest (he had been charged with sexual assault in November 2010). He came to Canada in 2000 and according to his father took up with the wrong crowd. He has now been charged with two counts of first-degree murder, five counts of attempted murder and criminal negligence.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, speaking publicly about the Eaton Centre shootings, commented that probably fewer than 2,000 people commit most of the gun violence in Toronto. He said police intelligence units are working with the criminal justice system gathering sufficient evidence to put the perpetrators in jail. Councilor Adam Vaughan called for a handgun ban but Blair rejected it saying that the ban would not be a solution to the problem. He said 30% of the handguns seized in Toronto were stolen or otherwise diverted from legitimate gun owners. The other 70% were smuggled in from the U.S. The way to reduce these numbers he said is for legitimate gun owners to bear more responsibility for their storage and that a better job of securing the borders must be done. He acknowledged that there is a serious gun violence problem but said police have been making progress.