'Crying since last night': 18-year-old killed in Rexdale drive-by shooting ID'd as Aseel Yehya

An 18-year-old shot outside a Rexdale shopping plaza on Wednesday night has died in hospital, according to Toronto police.

Several people in the area tried to help the victim before paramedics arrived

Saleh Ali says the loss of his son, 18-year-old Aseel Yehya, has devastated his family. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Saleh Ali says he never imagined he would lose his son to gun violence.

When the man who identified himself as the father of 18-year-old Aseel Yehya heard his son was the victim of Wednesday night's fatal shooting in Rexdale, he could barely believe it.

It was about 9:30 p.m. when Ali received a phone call from a neighbour telling him she'd heard gunfire and spotted his son, Ali said. 

"He's not a criminal, my son. He was a student, he was working," an exasperated Ali said.

Strangers leapt into action to help

Emergency crews were called to a shopping plaza in the Islington Avenue and Elmhurst Drive area around 9:20 p.m. for reports of gunshots. That's where Yehya was found lying on the ground with a group of strangers had been trying to keep him alive.

Police say the teen had been walking near the plaza when a multiple shots were fired from an approaching dark-coloured vehicle.

Toronto police included this image of Aseel Yehya in a Jan. 13 news release that formally identified him as the city's third homicide victim of 2019. (Toronto Police Service)

The victim was hit and tried to escape his attackers before the vehicle sped off. When paramedics arrived, he was rushed to a trauma centre. He was pronounced dead shortly after. 

Yehya's family has been devastated by the news. 

"Crying, all of them crying since last night, since they heard," Ali said. 

'It's devastating'

On Wednesday night, shell casing markers could be seen on the ground and a number of vehicles were present within a perimeter taped-off by investigators. 

Jane Sedore, who lives in the neighbourhood, told CBC Toronto she heard at least five shots fired in two distinct volleys. The loud bangs prompted her to check out what was happening in the street. 

"I ran to the door, and I saw him fall," she said of the victim. Sedore's son, Robert, rushed out to the victim's side. He stayed with him until police arrived, she added. 

According to Sedore, a woman who was driving through the area also got out of her car to help.

"It was very brave, what she did," Sedore said. 

Emergency crews were called to the scene in the Islington Avenue and Elmhurst Drive area around 9:20 p.m. Wednesday. (John Hanley/CBC)

She and her son are still digesting the experience, she explained.

"It's devastating," Sedore said from her home on Thursday morning. 

Toronto police's homicide unit has taken over the investigation. No descriptions of possible suspects have been provided. 

Anyone with potentially useful information is asked to contact police or to leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers.