Toronto police said Tuesday it’s unlikely they can arrest and prosecute the person who fatally shot 15-year-old Jarvis Montaque unless witnesses from the Jamestown neighbourhood provide them with information.
"If this young man is going to be avenged, we need witnesses to come forward," said Toronto Police Det. Gary Giroux at a news conference Tuesday. "I'm confident there are individuals in the community who know what happened to this young man."
Montaque, whose family had moved to Toronto from Jamaica less than two years ago, was shot while standing with a group of his friends outside his Jamestown townhouse complex on Sunday night.
Just before 11 p.m., a man walked up to the group, fired a single shot at Montaque from a distance of about three or four metres away, then fled.
There was some speculation Montaque was shot mistakenly. Giroux said Tuesday it now appears he was likely the shooter's intended target.
"The shooter was 10 to 12 feet away from Jarvis at the time of the shooting, and there are other indivduals that could have been shot after Jarvis was shot, so I'm going to suggest that Jarvis, for an unknown reason, was targeted," said Giroux.
Police said neither Montaque, nor the group of friends he was with, have a history of criminal activity. The friends Montaque was with when he was shot are also co-operating with the investigation, police say.
A letter from Montaque's sister was read at the news conference describing him as "a quiet, kind, loving and hard-working person."
"He came here for a better opportunity," read the letter. "Jarvis was taken from us for no reason at all. He was never a bad person."
Pastor Al Bowen said Montaque volunteered at a church-run day camp and stayed out of trouble.
"He was a workhorse," said Bowden. "A remarkable young man. The only brother to 10 sisters."
Habiba Adan also spoke at Tuesday's news conference. Five months ago her son Warsame Ali along with another man, were shot dead in the same neighbourhood. Both men were 26.
"To anyone who knows anything, please come forward," said Adan. "If you know somebody or someone, speak up. We have to give the police the help they need."
Although the people who knew Monteque say he kept his head down and his nose out of trouble, he was still gunned down.
This is a problem in what police call "priority neighbourhoods" that are plagued by gangs.
"There is always a chance, no matter where we are. That is just how we live and how it is. People die," said 16-year-old Jamestown resident Adrien Beekharry.
Amarjot Singh, 15, doesn’t feel safe walking around alone.
"Everybody should have a feeling of safety when they walk around alone. Everybody doesn’t have that."
More guns in the city
David Carrillo, a former Toronto gang member, said guns are cheaper than they used to be and are often exchanged for drugs.
"Once you have a gun everybody respects you," said Carrillo. "There are lot more guns in the city than there was before. You can basically find them in a cereal box these days."
After a rash of gun violence in July, Mayor Rob Ford spoke with former premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to come up with a solution to end the violence.
Money was given to the city’s anti-violence intervention strategy (TAVIS) unit, which polices troubled neighbourhoods, as well as to the provincial equivalent unit.
"I’m frustrated. And, it really bothers me when I hear about this," said Ford on Tuesday regarding Montaque’s death.
"It's the gangs. I think we really have to go after these gangs, but it's hard to tell who's in the gangs and, you know, what they're all about."
Montaque, who will be buried in Jamaica, is the third 15-year-old to be fatally shot this year in Toronto. St. Aubyn Rodney, 15, was shot dead in an apartment near Jane Street and Finch Avenue West last week. A 17-year-old is facing manslaughter charges in Rodney's death.
A candlelight vigil is set to be held for Montaque on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at a local recreation centre, a community leader says.