Toronto

Witness describes harrowing scene at trial of man accused of killing 2 people on Queen Street West

Court heard Friday from one of the witnesses of a high-profile fatal shooting in 2018 that left two men who were well known in the Toronto rap scene dead and one woman injured.

Abdulkadir Handule has pleaded not guilty to 2 counts of 1st-degree murder, aggravated assault

Abdulkadir Handule, left, and defence lawyer Dirk Derstine watch as witness Roseann Iavarone indicates the length of a gun she had seen as she testifies by Zoom in court Friday. Justice Brian O’Marra and Crown attorney Anna Tenhouse are seen on the right. (Pam Davies/CBC)

Roseann Iavarone was standing on Queen Street West on a June evening in 2018 when she heard what she thought were fireworks.

Instead, it was the sound of gunshots. She was at the scene of a fatal shooting that left two men who were well known in the Toronto rap scene dead, and another woman hurt.

Iavarone testified Friday at the trial of Abdulkadir Handule, who has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, as well as charges of aggravated assault and discharging a firearm with intent to wound. 

Jahvante Smart, 21, who was also known by his rap moniker Smoke Dawg, and Ernest Modekwe, 28, a brand manager for a hip-hop collective known as Prime, were both shot and killed shortly before 8 p.m. on June 30, 2018 on Queen Street West. 

Iavarone was standing on the street near Cube nightclub with two friends when the incident happened.

"We saw a bunch of people start screaming and running towards us," Iavarone said, testifying by Zoom.

"And then at that time we had realized it was shots that we heard."

Smart suffered three gunshot wounds, one in his neck and two in his leg, court heard. Modekwe was shot once in the neck.

Michelle Weir, a bystander in the shooting, was also injured and suffered a gunshot wound to her leg.

On Wednesday, Crown prosecutor Anna Tenhouse laid out the prosecution's case to jurors and Justice Brian O'Marra in Superior Court.

In July 2019, Handule was arrested by RCMP officers in Burnaby, B.C., for unrelated charges and turned over to Toronto police after a nationwide arrest warrant was issued in the killings of Smart and Modekwe.

Jahvante Smart, right, and Ernest Modekwe, left, were shot and killed on June 30, 2018 in Toronto's entertainment district. (Jake Kivanc)

Iavarone testified that she and her friends were sitting on a bench when they heard the shots.

That's when Iavarone began to run west, eventually finding a corner of a vacant storefront to crouch in. She said when she looked up, she saw a man lying face down in the middle of the road.

"Then I saw a gentleman running up to him who had his arm out with a gun in his hand and stood over him," she said.

"I remember saying 'He's going to shoot him,' and he shot the gun and then I closed my eyes and I heard another shot right after."

When the gunshots ended, Iavarone said she heard her friend "hysterically screaming," and rushed to her. That's when she noticed another man lying on his back with his right leg touching the front of her car.

She said the man, who had a gunshot wound to his neck, was still alive at the time and so she tried to help him by applying pressure to his wound.

"He was saying he didn't want to die and we were trying to calm him down and saying help is on the way," she said.

​The trial will resume on Monday. 

It is set to continue into next week,​ ​then break for three weeks over the holidays and​ pick up again on Jan. 10​.

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