Calling it “unprecedented” Toronto police have charged a convicted gun smuggler with criminal negligence causing death after police allege one of the guns he smuggled into Canada from Florida was used in a fatal shooting.
The charge against 44-year-old Jeffrey Gilmour is one of 10 new counts he’s facing following an investigation dubbed Project 93 that began in July, 2019.
“This is believed to be the first time in Canadian law enforcement that the charge has been applied in this type of investigation,” police said in a release Wednesday.
Investigators said Gilmour was initially arrested while attempting to enter Canada from the U.S. with three handguns concealed in the vehicle. A search warrant was later executed at his home, where another gun was found. Police say all of the guns were purchased in Florida.
Gilmour was convicted and sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison. But even though he was behind bars, police allege guns he had previously purchased in Florida and smuggled into Canada were still circulating throughout the Greater Toronto Area.
Police allege one such weapon was discovered in a car during a sudden death investigation where a 19-year-old man died from a gunshot wound near Dufferin Street and Finch Avenue West in December, 2019.
“Those involved in the trafficking of illegal firearms show a wanton and reckless disregard for the lives of others by putting a lethal weapon into the hands of someone who is likely to use it for a dangerous purpose,” said Detective Sergeant Robert DiDanieli, Gun and Gang Task Force Firearms Enforcement Unit.
“Not only should they be held accountable for the offence of trafficking the firearm, but they should bear some responsibility for the crimes in which that firearm is used.”
Securing a conviction on the charge could be challenging according to Richard Litkowski, an Appellate lawyer at Hicks Adams LLP in Toronto.
While stressing that he’s unfamiliar with the particulars of the case, Litkowski said it’s a rare charge because it can be difficult to prove.
“In this case the criminal act that the Crown has to prove is that the accused did something that caused someone’s death; in this case the underlying act would be the offence of gun smuggling. Causation in the criminal law can, however, be tricky.
“One reason it can be tricky is that there may be intervening acts that break the chain of causation in a particular case, or on the facts of a specific case, the initial underlying act is simply too remote from the end result,” he explained.
“The charge is rather novel because in most cases where there is a result like a death or bodily harm, there is an obvious and more direct causal link between the underlying act and the result (for example in a dangerous driving causing death case). Here, the causal link is not direct.”
Despite the difficult burden of proof, Litkowski said he has seen cases where drug traffickers have pled guilty to criminal negligence causing death where the person sold fentanyl directly to the user.
“There is an analogy … between this and a case where a drug trafficker is charged if someone dies as a result of using the drugs that are purchased from the trafficker. Again in such a case issues of causation and the objective foreseeability of harm are at the forefront of the analysis.”