POLITICS

Murder charges dropped against man accused in Toronto neighbourhood shooting

01/23/2015 01:57 EST | Updated 03/25/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - Two first-degree murder charges have been withdrawn against a man accused in a July 2012 shooting that sparked panic at a community barbecue in Toronto.

Shaquan Mesquito has instead pleaded guilty to four new charges in the Danzig Street shooting, which killed two people and injured 22 others.

Related aggravated assault charges and an attempted murder charge he was facing have also been dropped.

His lawyer says Mesquito pleaded guilty on Friday to counselling to commit murder, possession of a firearm, breach of a prohibition order and uttering a threat.

Liam O'Connor says Mesquito has been sentenced to nine years in prison, minus time already spent in custody — which means he has five years and three months left to serve.

O'Connor says facts in the case suggest Mesquito wasn't actually connected to the shooting "other than unfortunately taking credit for it afterwards."

The shooting — which Toronto police called an "unprecedented'' episode of violence — stunned the city and rocked the east-end community where it took place.

Police said the shooting was triggered when members of the Galloway Boys, a local street gang who allegedly "took ownership'' of the neighbourhood barbecue, turned away a member of the Malvern crew, a rival gang.

That individual then allegedly returned to the gathering with a number of associates to confront the Galloway Boys, sparking the shootout.

The bullets that sprayed into the crowd killed a 14-year-old girl, Shyanne Charles, and a 23-year-old man, Joshua Yasay.

Mesquito's sentencing comes nine months after a Toronto judge sentenced another man, Nahom Tsegazab, to 14 years in prison in relation to the shooting. Tsegazab pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter.