Toronto

Teen allegedly abducted over drug debt found safe, police searching for captors, chief says

A 14-year-old Toronto boy allegedly abducted as retribution for a multimillion-dollar drug debt owed by his older stepbrother has been found safe, police said late Thursday.

14-year-old was subject of Amber Alert issued late Wednesday

Police search for evidence near the rural property where the 14-year-old boy was found on Thursday night. (Jeremy Cohn/CBC)

A 14-year-old Toronto boy allegedly abducted as retribution for a multimillion-dollar drug debt owed by his older stepbrother has been found safe, police said late Thursday.

The teen was found near a rural property in Brampton, Ont., about 30 kilometres west of where he was originally taken in the north end of Toronto.

Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters at a Friday morning news conference that the boy was "dishevelled" when officers found him.

"He's now safe with his mom and dad," Saunders said. He would not answer questions about whether the boy was injured or what led police to the area where he was found.

"I want less focus on this young man. He's been through enough already," he said.

Police have not yet interviewed the teen about his experience, as investigators want to make sure his well-being is paramount, Saunders said.

"We're looking for the person or persons who are responsible."

The teen had earlier been the subject of an Amber Alert after police say he was forced into a Jeep by several men in the Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue area of Toronto on Wednesday at about 8:25 a.m. ET, while on his way to school.

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He was heard yelling, "Help me! Help me!" as he was forced into the vehicle.

Earlier, investigators said his stepbrother owes a large debt stemming from a "multi-kilo" cocaine theft dating back to the summer of 2019 that was worth about $4 million. The stepbrother has since fled the Greater Toronto Area, police said.

The stepbrother has had "very limited" contact with investigators, Saunders said. Police have not had any contact with the boy's abductors, he said.

The teen has no connection to the criminal lifestyle, police say. Saunders told reporters that police will make sure he is safe going forward, adding that someone "would have to be a fool" to go after him now.

"He probably will be the most watched young man in the city of Toronto right now," Saunders said.

School didn't report absence

The probe into the boy's disappearance began Wednesday evening, after one of his parents called police to report that he had not returned home from school. The Amber Alert was issued hours later at around midnight.

The Jeep used in the incident was found by police on Thursday burned out on the side of a road in Caledon, Ont., about 60 kilometres north of Toronto.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) said the boy's family wasn't told he didn't show up to school that morning.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird says four staff members at the boy's school are on home assignment, pending investigation. (Angelina King/CBC)

Four staff members at Newtonbrook Secondary School have been put on "home assignment" because their attendance data wasn't submitted before an 11 a.m. deadline, said TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird. The board is investigating.

Following the alert, there were complaints on social media concerning why it took police more than six hours to send the alert to people's phones. 

Stephen Warner, spokesperson for Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, said in an email that, before an Amber Alert is issued, police must believe the victim is in danger and confirm they're under the age of 18.

There must also be a description of either the child, abductor and/or vehicle, and they must believe an immediate broadcast alert will help in finding the child. 

Saunders is asking anyone with information about what happened to come forward. "There is absolutely no way that nobody knows anything about this," he said.

Police described the two men who allegedly abducted the boy as black, between the ages of 18 and 22, each about six feet tall and 140 pounds and wearing dark jackets.

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