A lawyer whose client was fatally wounded in the Eaton Centre shooting says he never heard any indications that Nixon Nirmalendran was in a street gang, despite claims from police.
Nirmalendran, 22, succumbed to his injuries on Monday evening, after clinging to life for nine days after the shooting.
Police have alleged that Nirmalendran and a 24-year-old man who was killed in the shooting, Ahmed Hassan, were members of the same gang as the accused shooter, Christopher Husbands.
Nirmalendran’s long-time lawyer, Christopher Assie, says he has no knowledge of his client having ties to a gang.
“I read that in the news. I have never heard of that beforehand. Never has that ever been part of the allegations that he’s faced. That’s never been brought up in a bail hearing or anything of that nature,” Assie told CBC News.
Assie also said he did not believe his client was tied to an alleged incident earlier this year in which Husbands was tied up and stabbed.
“He was never arrested for it. To the best of my knowledge, he was never questioned for it,” said Assie.
If one looked beyond his criminal record, Nirmalendran was a good kid, Assie said.
“He had a great sense of humour, he was very optimistic, he was always upbeat … he was just a pleasant guy,” said Assie.
Trouble with the law
The last few years of Nirmalendran’s life, however, were filled with interactions with police and the justice system.
On Oct. 31, 2007, Nirmalendran’s friend, Alwy Al Nadhir, was shot dead during a struggle with a police, which resulted when officers interrupted an attempted robbery involving the two men.
Nirmalendran later got a tattoo of Al Nadhir’s face on his left arm, which was visible when Nirmalendran was wheeled out to an ambulance outside the Eaton Centre after he was shot.
The SIU later cleared police of any wrongdoing, but Assie says the death of his friend had a huge impact on Nirmalendran.
"Superficially, of course, he got the tattoo in recognition of his friend, but it was certainly a defining aspect. It's a traumatic event for anybody to go through and it was for him as well.
Nirmalendran would later plead guilty to robbery and use of an imitation firearm to commit an indictable offence.
A year before his death, Nirmalendran pleaded guilty to trafficking cocaine and possession for the purpose of trafficking cocaine in a Toronto court.
And in March 2010, Nirmalendran was also charged with second-degree murder in connection with the death of a man inside a prisoner’s area at Toronto’s Don Jail. But the charge was later reduced to manslaughter and eventually dropped.
Coincidentally, both Nirmalendran and Husbands aspired to be youth workers. Nirmalendran was one high school credit short of getting into Centennial College.
Assie said many troubled youth aspire to become social workers because the field is more attractive than other jobs they're exposed to, such as police officers and teachers.
"A youth worker and social workers, usually don't judge the kids. They seem to be on their sides and someone that they can identify with, so it's not surprising that he wanted to become a youth worker."