CityNews Rewind 2012: ‘Unprecedented’ mass shooting at Danzig St. BBQ stuns Toronto

Three back-to-back shootings in June and July killed five people and injured 30 others, and left many Torontonians fearing another Summer of the Gun.

A visibly shaken police chief, who was already dealing with two earlier brazen shootings at Toronto Eaton Centre and Little Italy, called the Danzig Street gun battle in Scarborough on July 16 the worst one in the city’s history.

“This is not only unprecedented in Toronto,” chief Bill Blair said. “This is the worst incident of gun violence in my memory.”

Click here to read other stories in our CityNews Rewind 2012 series.

The Danzig shooting led to a gun summit of municipal and provincial leaders and prompted Blair to ramp up police patrols over the summer to curb crime.

On the evening of July 16, Shyanne Charles, 14, of Scarborough, and Joshua Yasay, 23, of Ajax, joined upwards of 150 people at a neighbourhood block party. Before the evening was over both were dead and 23 others, including a 22-month-old baby, were injured by a gun battle between two rival gangs.

“I saw people running, I heard ‘crack, crack’ and I hit the ground,” said one man, who didn’t want to be identified out of concern for his safety.

“It was like a Quentin Tarantino movie,” he said, calling it the most frightening thing he had seen in more than four decades in the neighbourhood.

A recent university graduate, Yasay was a co-owner of the Goodfellas Barber Lounge in Ajax and was promoting his business at the barbecue where many families had gathered.

Shyanne, an A-student who had just finished Grade 9 at West Hill Collegiate Institute, was with her mother at the barbecue only a few blocks from their home. Friends described Shyanne as outgoing and loved by her teachers.

The day after the shooting, Mayor Rob Ford visited the Danzig neighbourhood.

He tried to allay fears, telling residents that Toronto was still the safest city in the world and that the shooting and the one at Eaton Centre were “a couple of unfortunate, isolated incidents.”

A week later, Ford and Blair met with the premier at Queen’s Park for a gun summit.

The mayor asked for as much as $10 million to hire more police officers. Instead, Dalton McGuinty renewed funding for TAVIS (Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy), which was $5 million a year, and pledged $500,000 to allow GTA and provincial police forces to work together to get guns and gangs off the street.

Gathering evidence

The homicide squad alleged the shooting started when members of the Galloway Boys gang “took ownership” of the outdoor barbecue, and prevented a member of the rival Malvern Crew gang from entering.

The Malvern Crew member left, called a number of his gang members and returned to the barbecue to confront the Galloway Boys for revenge, police say.

Alleged Malvern Crew member Shaquan “Bam Bam” Mesquito, 18, was charged on Nov. 8 with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Charles and Yasay, among other offences. He was already in custody, since days after the shooting, for uttering threats.

Alleged Galloway Boys member Nahom “Gifted” Tsegazab, 19, faces second-degree murder charges. He was also charged with attempted murder and 22 counts of aggravated assault. That’s on top of a charge of reckless discharge of a firearm filed against him three days after the shooting.

Tsegazab was injured in the Danzig shooting and was hospitalized for a “number of days,” police said.

Police said they were investigating a link between the Danzig shooting and a separate shooting on Chester Le Boulevard on Sept. 2.

In the Sept. 2 shooting, a 17-year-old boy, who was wounded at the Danzig barbecue, was shot again this time in the leg. He was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in the Danzig shooting, as well as with attempted murder, reckless discharge of a firearm and 22 counts of aggravated assault.

On Dec. 4, a 16-year-old Toronto boy, already in custody for the Chester Le Boulevard shooting, was arrested and charged with several firearm-related offences and threatening death. The names of the two minors are protected under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Ministry of the Attorney General declined to comment on these cases. And lawyers for the teens either declined to speak or weren’t available for comment.

The 17-year-old youth was expected in court in Scarborough on Dec. 10. Mesquito was due in the same east-end court on Dec. 12 and Tsegazab was scheduled to appear there on Dec. 19. The next court date for the 16-year-old boy is Jan. 7, 2013.

Click here to read other stories in our CityNews Rewind 2012 series.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today