A 12-year-old boy who had been fighting for his life in hospital after he was struck by a stray bullet in an apparent gang-related shooting in North York last weekend has died, according to Toronto police.
The boy was shot as he was walking across the street with his mother as they were returning home from a shopping trip at around 2:20 p.m. Saturday near 25 Stong Ct., a street running off Jane Street, a block north of Finch Avenue.
According to police, two males jumped out of a car and started firing their guns at five occupants in a vehicle in a parking lot area busy with pedestrians, families and others. At least 30 rounds fired. There was no return gunfire.
The boy had been in grave condition at the Hospital for Sick Children where he died of his injuries Wednesday, Toronto police said.
Toronto police homicide Det.-Sgt. Keri Fernandes told reporters Thursday that charges against Rashawn Chambers, 24, and Jahwayne Smart, 25, have been upgraded to include first-degree murder in the death of the boy.
The fact that the 12-year old boy was not the intended target doesn’t mean there wasn’t premeditation, she said.
“This investigation has shown us that the two accused had planned to carry out murder,” Fernandes said. “They had a plan to murder someone that day.”
Fernandes did not identify the boy, citing his family’s request for privacy. The Star has confirmed the boy’s first name is Dante.
Police are still looking for a third suspect believed to have been driving the vehicle.
“I think it goes without saying what an absolute tragedy this whole occurrence is, and what it’s done to the community. It’s already fragile at best,” said Supt. Ron Taverner, unit commander of 31 Division, the police detachment where the shooting occurred.
Taverner appealed to the community to help police solve this crime and others plaguing the community, where there has been “unspeakable” gun violence that’s “terrorizing” good people. He implored those with any information to “let us know who the gun people are.”
“The gun violence in this community is higher than anywhere else,” he said.
“On behalf of @TorontoPolice I want to extend our sincerest condolences to the family of the 12-year-old who has sadly succumbed to his injuries,” interim Toronto police chief Jim Ramer tweeted Thursday morning.
Three passengers in the target vehicle, two of them teenagers, were wounded in the gunfire. All been treated and released from hospital.
Chambers and Smart were arrested outside a Canadian Tire at Bay and Dundas Street West around 5 p.m. Monday. Smart was on parole at the time of his arrest, Taverner said.
Police sources have linked the attack to a long-running dispute involving gangs based in the area .
According to a senior police source, one of the two men arrested in the shooting is the brother of a popular Toronto rapper who was shot and killed in a 2018 double-slaying on Queen Street West ; the man charged in that case had himself performed with a group of rappers based out of the North York neighbourhood where the 12-year-old was shot Saturday .
Two loaded firearms were seized during the arrests, each had one tucked in their waistbands, and a third handgun was recovered with a search warrant, a police source said, clarifying earlier information that suggested three guns had been seized.
Chambers and Smart are also suspects in two other shootings in the hours and days before Saturday’s daylight shooting.
The pair face 53 total charges, including one count each of first-degree murder, five counts attempted murder, three counts aggravated assault, discharging a firearm with intent to wound and weapons offences.
At the time of the shooting, Smart was on parole after serving part of a prison sentence relating to firearms. In August, York Regional Police issued a warrant for his arrest for allegedly violating a firearms prohibition order after a search warrant was executed on a residence. Smart had never been arrested over this charge prior to the North York shooting.
Earlier this week, a senior police source told the Star this and other recent shootings appear to be connected to long-standing warfare between gangs based in the Driftwood area north of Finch and others from the downtown Regent Park neighbourhood.
Smart is the brother of killed Toronto rapper Jahvante Smart, who performed as Smoke Dawg and was rising to stardom before he was shot and killed outside a downtown nightclub on June 30, 2018, the source said.
Marcell Wilson, a former gang member and co-founder of anti-violence and anti-gang organization One By One movement, said the shooting must prompt real change.
“He has to be the last one. He has to be the last child that dies for no reason — because some young people are upset with each other over really stupid s–,” Wilson said.
“It’s devastating. It’s tragic,” said Sam Tecle, a community leader with the youth organization Success Beyond Limits, which is based in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood.
“I don’t know how to make sense of it,” he said.
In a statement Thursday, the Jane Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP) said it was “deeply saddened” by the boy’s death.
“We once again reiterate that when anyone picks up a gun, and takes to shooting in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, that this is a collective failure of our society. We need to continue to take care of each other the best we can.
“We continue to demand social and economic justice so we can build a healthier and safer society for our children and families,” the group’s statement said.
Tragically, this is not the first time a child has been mistakenly shot and killed in Toronto.
On July 22, 2007, an 11-year-old boy, Ephraim Brown , was shot and killed at a birthday party in a housing complex at 1880 Sheppard Ave. W., to the east of the intersection with Jane Street, during a gunfight between rival gang members.
The little boy was shot in his throat.
Two men arrested for the crime, Akiel Eubank and Gregory Sappleton, were acquitted of second-degree murder in 2010 .
On Boxing Day, 2005, 15-year-old Jane Creba was shot and killed by a stray bullet outside the Toronto Eaton Centre in a gang shootout that shocked the city.
Her death sparked to intense public outcry and a massive police investigation that led to convictions of second-degree murder for Jorrell Simpson-Rowe and Jeremiah Valentine , and manslaughter convictions against two others.
Six years earlier, on a Sunday afternoon, June 13, 1999, in a parking lot next to a housing complex in the Jane and Finch area of Toronto, three-year-old Brianna Davy was struck in the head by a stray bullet as she sat in a car seat. She died instantly. Her father was shot five times in the chest and survived but was paralyzed from the waist down.
A forklift operator was convicted of first-degree murder after a first trial in 2001, but the verdict was overturned and a new trial ordered. He was acquitted after a second trial in 2007 .
Since 2014, 210 youth aged 13-29 and under — the range set out by the City of Toronto for targeted intervention programs — have been killed in Toronto. That’s, on average, one young person killed every 12 days in this city. This Star analysis does not include suspected or confirmed domestic homicides.
Like with all homicides, guns are the number one weapon used. Since 2014, guns have been involved in 166 cases of youth homicide or 79 per cent of those cases whether the method is publicly known.
Toronto continues to see near-record rates of overall gun violence. According to Toronto police data , 201 people had been killed or injured in the city as of Nov. 8, second-most by that date in records that go back to 2004, after 2019.
The 425 shooting incidents recorded by police so far in 2020 are tied with last year for the most by that date.
Correction — Nov. 13, 2020: This story has been edited from a previous version that misstated the day the 12-year-old died. Toronto police have since clarified he died Wednesday, Nov. 11. Police have also since clarified that Smart and Chambers are facing a total of 53 charges.