TORONTO - A Toronto neighbourhood mourning the deaths of two young people simmered with frustration Wednesday as residents complained it took a deadly hail of bullets to draw attention to their struggles.
As the impact of Monday night's violence sunk in, authorities vowed to track down those responsible for the brazen public shootout that terrorized a block party at an social housing complex.
Officials focused on suspected gang activity in particular as they grappled with what's become the latest in a string of public shootings to rock the city in recent months.
But many members of the diverse east-end community bristled Wednesday at the sight of officers and politicians who've descended on the neighbourhood since the attack, with numerous residents wondering how many of the officials would still be on hand once the dust settled.
The incident — which killed 14-year-old Shyanne Charles and 23-year-old Joshua Yasay, and also sent 23 people to hospital with gunshot wounds — has sparked fears of American-style gun wars.
A spokesman for city police said that many gang members taken into custody after a string of arrests in 2005 were recently released from prison — an element which may factor into the recent increase in Toronto's gun-related violence.
In the aftermath of the latest mass shooting, Mayor Rob Ford called for an outright ejection of gang members from the city.
"I want these people out of the city and I'm not going to stop. Not put them in jail and then come back and you can live in the city. No, I want them out of the city. Go somewhere else," he said in an interview with local TV station CP24 on Wednesday.
"They should do some serious hard time and not come back here. Once you come out of jail, get out of the city," he said.
Ford will be meeting with Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Police Chief Bill Blair next week to discuss ways to prevent similar violent incidents in the future.
Meanwhile, a community leader urged area residents to help the city's law enforcers by providing them with any information they might have about the shooting.
"If they want to take back their communities they have to come out in mass and say look, we will not tolerate this, we will not stand for guns on our streets," said Conservative Senator Reverend Don Meredith, who added that silence would only empower the criminals.
”Come forth, tell the police, give them the proper evidence that they need...They’re getting some leads but they still need some hard evidence."
Police have been pleading for witnesses to come forward, but have been met with a stony silence on many fronts.
Fear of retaliation has weighed heavily on the community, some said. Streets normally bustling with children were quiet Wednesday, "like a ghost town," one woman said.
"People don't want to let their kids out," said Shelley Dupuis, who has lived in the neighbourhood for years.
Many in the community admitted Wednesday to a general mistrust of police, adding that the current investigation has not helped relations with the force.
"There's no bond between us and police," said one woman, who did not want to be named out of concern for her safety.
Signs of Monday's violence still lingered in the area — one home remained surrounded by police tape, while stacks of paper plates, cups and a half-empty punch bowl littered a backyard.
For many who live in the community, which is now the epicentre of a conversation on gangs and guns, it was still time to mourn.
Friends and family members of the young girl killed in the melee have created a memorial Facebook page called "R.I.P. Shyanne Charles."
"I still don't believe that many people were shot and now Shyanne's (death) is sinking in to me," said Jam Johnson, who runs the neighbourhood basketball association which Charles helped out with.
"She was a good individual; young, smart, intelligent, very mature for her age, helped out a lot with younger kids in the community, and everybody just liked her.".
The teenager has been described as someone who enjoyed spending time with friends, was active in the community and hated violence.
Damian Charles, who identified himself as a cousin of Shyanne, said some of them were at the outdoor party at the time of the shooting.
"It's a hard situation. It's beyond hard to deal with," he said. "Shyanne and I grew up together and were very close," he said, adding the family is "coping the best they can."
Damian Charles said he was disgusted that gunmen would open fire in an area packed with innocent people, some of them young children.
"I am embarrassed to say that this city is my home sometimes knowing that there is people this pathetic lurking in it...They need to be put to justice," he said
"A lot of us are trying to do other things to keep our minds off of it. I myself want to be out there finding the people who did this... but I know it's not my job. I'll leave it to the law, as will the rest of us."
For the family of the young man who was killed in Monday's shooting, it was still too early for an analysis of the crime.
Speaking from their family home in Ajax, east of Toronto, Yasay's family said they were still reeling from the loss.
"We're dealing now with funeral arrangements, " said his older sister, Jennilyn Yasay. "We haven't even seen Joshua yet ... It's still fresh right now."
Jennilyn Yasay said the family was still waiting to see her brother's body, which is being kept at the chief coroner's office in Toronto.
— with files from Adam Miller.
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