Police 'pissed off' at gun violence surge, seek root of 'vicious, horrific' Rexdale shootings

Toronto police are turning to the public for help in solving a rash of "vicious, horrific" shootings in the city's Rexdale area amid a surge in gun violence they say displays a "total disregard for human life."

WARNING: This story contains graphic details and surveillance video of shootings

Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner has been approved as the next OPP commissioner by the Ontario cabinet. (CBC)

Toronto police are turning to the public for help in solving a series of "vicious, horrific" shootings in the city's Rexdale area amid a surge in gun violence they say displays a "total disregard for human life."

The victims in these unsolved cases were "totally innocent," Supt. Ron Taverner said during a Thursday news conference at 23 Division, and were "just going about their business" when they were shot indiscriminately. 

"I'm pissed off that the people of this community have to put up with this," he said.

Police explain there is no evidence to indicate the same suspects were involved in all three shootings. Yet mounting gun violence in northwest Toronto has left investigators grasping for a motive. 

"We can't definitely say it was gang initiation or what the rationale was," Taverner told reporters.

'We need help'

But a dramatic surge in illegal guns on the streets could be a factor. 

"The amount of guns out there are unbelievable," said Taverner, noting Toronto police created a dedicated task force this spring to tackle a spike in gun violence in the area. 

Since its creation, Taverner says the task force has made several arrests, seized numerous illegal firearms and executed search warrants. But the violence persists. 

"We need help," he said. "We need people to come forward. We need the support of the community."

On Friday, Mayor John Tory reiterated his call for the federal government to ban handguns in the city — and urged Torontonians to back up his call by taking part in an online public consultation that's set to end on Saturday.

"We know the vast majority of Toronto residents support a handgun ban. It is more important than ever for their voices to be heard," Tory said in a statement.

Data from CBC Toronto's Vote Compass, which was used by tens of thousands of people during last month's municipal election, found some 68 per cent of those surveyed agreed with a ban.

40% of shootings happen in northwest, Taverner says

So far, there have been more than 350 shootings in the city in 2018 — and almost 40 per cent, Taverner estimates, have occurred in northwest Toronto. 

Shootings are "fairly significant," he said, noting half remain unsolved.

This wave in violence is not "unusual" for the Rexdale area, Taverner added. The city's northwest has a history with gang activity, turf wars and retaliation, guns and drugs.

"All of those things contribute to what you see here," he said. 

Man shot in armed robbery

A 29-year-old man remains in hospital with what police are calling life-altering injuries after being shot in an armed robbery five months earlier.  

Three masked males abruptly confronted a group of people on June 10 in a residential parking lot in the area of Jane Street and Steeles Avenue West. 

The suspects demanded cash and property from three men who had been standing outside a parked, white-coloured sedan, Taverner said. They assaulted at least two victims, whipping one with a pistol and shooting another, he added. 

Then they fled.

WARNING: This video contains graphic content

Surveillance video surveillance shows them running a short distance away before turning back. As they approach the car a second time, each suspect sprays one of the victims still lying on the ground with bullets, each emptying their gun's clip, said Taverner. 

"This is an unbelievable display of disregard of human life," he told reporters Thursday at 23 Division.

"We should be concerned as a community about this level of violence. When you watch people lying on the ground, being shot at, that's disturbing."

This is an unbelievable display of disregard of human life.- Supt. Ron Taverner, Toronto Police Service's 23 Division

The suspects are all described as masked males of unknown race and age.

The first is believed to be 5'10" to 6'0" with a thin build. He was seen wearing light-coloured fabric around his face, a grey baseball hat, a light blue-coloured zipper jacket and jeans, and black shoes. 

The second is believed to be 5'10" to 6'0" with a medium build. His face was covered and he was wearing a black-coloured hoodie, grey-coloured track pants, and black-coloured shoes. 

The third suspect is believed to be 5'11" to 6'1" with a thin build. His face was also covered and was wearing a dark blue-coloured hoodie, black-coloured pants and shoes. 

Opened fire from alleyway

The second shooting happened on Aug. 30 outside a residence in the area of John Garland Boulevard and Martin Grove Road.

Shortly before midnight, two armed males approached a group of people from the alleyway and opened fire, Taverner said. 

Surveillance video shows the group leap up from their seats and run at the first crack of gunfire. The suspects fired off multiple shots before running back through the alley. They fled on foot and jumped into a dark-coloured, four-door sedan that headed toward Finch Avenue West. 

A 20-year-old man suffered minor injuries in the firefight. He has since recovered, investigators said. 

Police are searching for two suspects. One is described as male with a skinny build who was wearing a white-coloured hoodie and beige-coloured pants. The other was wearing dark-coloured clothes. 

Suspect stood over man, firing multiple shots

Last week, two masked suspects approached two people from behind in a Jamestown parking lot. 

The victims, age 41 and 44, started to run after the suspects opened fire in the area of Jamestown Crescent and John Garland Boulevard. 

One fell face first into the ground as a suspect stood over him and fired several shots at point blank range, said Taverner. 

WARNING: This video contains graphic content

The first suspect is described as male, 6'0" with a skinny build, wearing a grey-coloured sweatshirt with a logo on the front, black-coloured track pants with white-coloured stripes on the sides, and black-coloured shores and a baseball hat. 

A description of the second suspect isn't available, Taverner explained. 

"As a community, we need to stand up and say we are not going to put up with this," he said.

"We need people to come forward ... We are trying to make the community safer."