07/23/2012 12:10 EDT | Updated 09/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Joshua Yasay, Toronto Block Party Shooting Victim, Remembered As Good Man At Funeral Service

AJAX, Ont. - A man killed in a mass shooting at a barbecue was remembered Monday as a young community leader who tried to prevent kids from turning to the kind of violence that ended his life.

Hundreds of people gathered for the funeral of 23-year-old Joshua Yasay, who was killed as a hail of bullets flew at the community event in east-end Toronto on July 16.

Friends and family eulogized Yasay as an inspiring basketball coach for at-risk youth who was at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"What breaks your heart is that he's trying to help the very kids that are picking up the guns and getting into trouble and shooting people," said Caitlin Roxborough, a high school friend and former co-worker of Yasay's at McDonald's.

"He's trying to make a change and then he just didn't get that chance. You just hope the people he inspired will still be inspired to do better things and to stay out of trouble."

In her eulogy, which was a compilation from family and friends, Jennilyn Yasay said that her brother had a great sense of humour, was always there for her and their family and had the ability to connect with people on a very deep level.

She called for justice in the death of her brother, who had hoped to become a police officer, and said he "did the best (he) could to survive."

"My heart, along with countless others, was completely shattered by the absolutely senseless and tragic loss of my dear friend and brother," she said.

"The pain I see in the hearts of your friends, co-workers and lives you touched makes me wish for every prayer we send off in your honour, the individuals responsible for this innocent shooting are condemned when it is judgment day," she said.

Jennilyn Yasay also said in her eulogy that friends had pleaded with her brother to enter law with them instead of the police force, but that he was too determined in his goal.

Jevon Edwards, a high school friend of Yasay, described him as having a "good heart" and said he was shocked to hear of his death.

"I had seen him just a couple of weeks ago before everything happened," Edwards said. "It shouldn't be him. He's one of the good guys. I can't even think. I'm just so sad to see somebody like Josh go so quick."

Pallbearers dressed in white suits carried in the casket as onlookers broke down outside the church.

"He was the type of guy that was fighting to curb this type of violence and unfortunately he got caught up in it," said Yvette Nelson, whose daughter was a close friend of Yasay's.

Nelson added that those affected by Yasay's tragic death can become angry and lose perspective on the issue, by calling the shooters "senseless" and "thugs", but added "obviously they need help."

"We have to forgive and we have to have that compassion and we have to help them, otherwise I don't know, maybe the killing just continues, the shootings just continue."

One of the people who was shot at the barbecue has been charged with reckless discharge of a firearm, but police have not charged anyone in the two shooting deaths.

Pallbearers dressed in white suits carried in the casket as onlookers broke down outside the church.

Pastor Peter Jae Choi, who led the service at the St. Francis De Sales Parish in Ajax, said he was "shocked and heartbroken" by Yasay's death and asked how such a tragedy could happen to such a good man.

"The suddenness of Joshua's death brought sadness and shock to our hearts, and we cannot help but wonder why," he said in the service.

"He was always there for his family, his friends, and his community; he worked with and coached at-risk youth in Scarborough. He offered them his friendship and gave them hope."

Outside the church, the family was too distraught to speak to reporters, but friends described Yasay as a man who was never involved in violence.

Neil MacCarthy, director of communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto, said about 700 people attended the service.

Yasay was one of two people caught in the cross-fire at the community barbecue. Twenty-three others were wounded.

A funeral service for 14-year-old Shyanne Charles is set for Saturday in Toronto.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty told Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at a meeting Monday that the province will continue funding a Toronto police anti-violence initiative. Funding for the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy was set to run out next year.

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