07/18/2012 03:29 EDT | Updated 09/17/2012 05:12 EDT

Police Probe Gang Connections In Street-Party Shooting

Toronto police are "vigorously" investigating the possibility that gang members may have been involved in a wild shooting at an east-end street party that left two people dead and 23 others wounded.

In an interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Chief Bill Blair said that there are "indications of gang involvement" in the Monday night shooting on Danzig Street and police are investigating accordingly.

It is believed that the violence on Danzig Street erupted when two individuals got into a dispute and exchanged gunfire at the crowded party, just after 10:40 p.m. on Monday.

Twenty-five people were hit by gunfire, two of whom died at the scene. Another person was trampled as the scores of people at the street party fled the shooting.

Blair said the fact that the individuals involved in the shooting were willing to fire guns in a crowded public space is not "atypical of what happens with gang members who use violence, sometimes in very public ways and sometimes in ways which demonstrate a complete indifference to the safety of others."

Scarborough has previously seen gang violence on its streets.

Some years ago, a gang known as the Galloway Boys was the target of two major police investigations, which Blair said helped put some of their key leaders behind bars.

Last year, Tyshan Riley, the one-time leader of the Galloway Boys, received an 18-year sentence for his role in the attempted murders of two Scarborough men.

When he was sentenced for those crimes, Riley was already serving a life sentence for a separate attack on two innocent Malvern men who were mistakenly believed to be members of a rival gang. Two other men were also convicted in the same attack, which killed Brenton Charlot.

Leo Bell was seriously wounded in the March 3, 2004, shooting that killed Charlot.

The two men were riding in a car together that had just stopped at a stoplight on Neilson Road when they came under attack. Bell was in the passenger seat.

"It might sound a little extreme, but I definitely refer to them as mangy dogs," Bell told CBC News on Wednesday.

"These people have no morals whatsoever."

Gang still ‘functioning,’ chief says

And while Blair said that police operations had largely dismantled the Galloway Boys, as time has passed, there are indications that the gang is undergoing a renewal process.

"It’s still a gang that is functioning, and what we’re seeing is a new leadership emerging there," said Blair.

The CBC’s John Lancaster reported Wednesday that at least one known Galloway Boys member was wounded in the Danzig Street shooting.

But Blair said that the Galloway Boys are not the only group that police believe may pose a risk to public safety.

"There are other gangs as well, and we’re concerned about the activities of some of the individuals who are associated to those gangs and their tendency to use violence," he said.

And while Blair said police were successful in pushing back against the street gangs that posed a threat in the past, some of the people that were put behind bars are now re-entering the community.

"Most of them are just getting on with life," Blair said. "But some of them have gone back into the old ways. And so we are a little bit concerned about the potential for violence that they bring."

That is coupled with the emergence of a new younger group of street gang members who are carrying on a tradition of violence that has proved deadly in the past.

"What we’ve also seen is another group of young individuals who are, sort of, now following in that same path, adopting a culture of using extreme violence in the resolution of disputes between them."

Toronto Star court reporter Betsy Powell wrote a book about the Galloway Boys.

When speaking with CBC Radio’s Metro Morning last month, Powell explained that the gang became the focus of a police investigation after the killings that Riley was involved with.

The eventual crackdown resulted in Riley’s conviction, but as Blair said on Wednesday, the gang persists.

"For a while, these gang projects are panacea, but they are short-term solutions," Powell said.

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