Wednesday, October 26, 2011
The Boxing Day shooting was a Canadian gang-related shooting which occurred on December 26, 2005 on Toronto's Yonge Street, resulting in the death of 15-year-old student Jane Creba. Six other bystanders—four men and two women, were wounded. The incident took place on one of Toronto's most crowded streets on the very busy shopping day, just a few blocks north of the Toronto Eaton Centre. The story generated national news coverage in Canada and influenced the then-underway 2006 federal election campaign on the issues of gun crime and street violence.
Jane Creba (May 13, 1990 – December 26, 2005), a Grade 10 student at Riverdale Collegiate Institute, was killed in the incident. While shopping with her sister, she was exiting Pizza Pizza on the west side of the street, when the gunfight erupted. One bullet passed through her upper torso, lodging in her clothing; it was later recovered in hospital. She was rushed to St. Michael's Hospital and died during emergency surgery.
Police arrested two men on several gun charges at Castle Frank subway station within an hour after the shooting: Andrew Thompson, 20, who was on probation at the time and Jorrell Simpson-Rowe, 17. Thompson had been released just before Christmas from Maplehurst prison near Milton, Ontario, where he had served 30 days for his role in a convenience-store robbery. He declined a bail hearing for his current charges. Police believe as many as 10 to 15 people were involved in the shooting and that more than one gun was fired.
Twenty Toronto Police detectives were assigned to "Project Green Apple" (named after her favourite food) to work on the case. On June 13, 2006, Toronto Police conducted multiple raids at 14 locations throughout Toronto in the early morning, arresting six men and two teenagers. Charges laid against them included manslaughter, second-degree murder, and attempted murder relating to the six other by-standers. All arrested are members of two different street gangs.
In October 2007 a young man who was rounded up in the initial arrests, Eric Boateng, was shot dead in a seemingly unconnected incident. Boateng was not charged with the shooting, but was later charged with cocaine trafficking.
As of December 2007, ten people have been charged with murder or manslaughter in the case, three of whom are youths. Those charged with second-degree murder include Tyshaun Barnett and Louis Woodcock, both 19, Jeremiah Valentine, 24, and Jorrell Simpson-Rowe, who was 17 at the time of the shootings. One of the teenagers who was arrested in June and charged with manslaughter was exonerated on October 25, 2007 after the preliminary hearing. The teenager charged with murder was committed to trial.
On December 7, 2008, Jorrell Simpson-Rowe, previously known as JSR due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act's non-disclosure of identities of minors, was convicted by a jury of murder in the second degree. In April 2009, he was sentenced as an adult to life in prison with no chance of parole for seven years.
In March 2009, British resident Dorian Wallace was arrested in London. Canadian authorities have requested his extradition to Canada so that he may be charged with manslaughter for Creba's death.
In November 2009, manslaughter charges against four individuals involved in the incident were dropped because the prosecutors "felt there were no reasonable prospects for conviction". The four were alleged by prosecutors to have had a "common unlawful purpose" in the incident, but did not fire a weapon.
In December 2009, one decliner, 27-year-old Jeremiah Valentine pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Creba's death and was given a life sentence with no chance of parole for 12 years. And in April 2010, a jury found Louis Woodcock, 23, and Tyshaun Barnett, 22, guilty of manslaughter in the 15-year-old's death, but not guilty of the more serious offense of second-degree murder. They were also found guilty of four counts each of aggravated assault, relating to other people who were wounded by stray bullets that day. The sentencing is set for April 22.
The Boxing Day Shooting was the subject of intense media coverage, particularly after a year in which the city of Toronto recorded 80 homicides and a city record 52 shooting deaths. Only one month earlier on November 18, 2005, Amon Beckles was killed outside the sanctuary of a church while attending the funeral of his friend, Jamal Hemmings, whose shooting death he may have witnessed a week earlier, on Eglinton Avenue between Oakwood and Marlee Avenues in the Eglinton West neighbourhood in the former city of York.
Some saw Creba's death as a sign of the beginnings of a big-city crime problem in Toronto. The incident was yet another example that led to 2005 being labeled by both the media and police as the year of the gun. Detective Sergeant Savas Kyriacou of the Toronto Police Service spoke for these people in saying, "Toronto has finally lost its innocence. I think we're going to feel this day for a long time to come." At the same time, Toronto continues to have a lower violent crime rate than similarly-sized American cities, and on a per capita basis, it is on par with other Canadian cities.
Creba's death has also caused much controversy over the causes of gun crime and the ways to handle the problem, and over race. Also controversial is resurgence of the Guardian Angels in Toronto; they arrived in mid-January to visit the city. Toronto street patrols began in July; however, the chapter had run into financial difficulties by September 2006.