The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Friday, December 30, 2005

Anatomy of the Yonge Street shooting

Don't you hate it when you're interested in a story but there aren't enough details for you to fully understand what happened?We do.

And like you, we were transfixed by this week's tragedy in Toronto. We know that shots were fired in downtown Toronto as Boxing Day crowds filled the street, a 15-year-old girl was killed, and six people were wounded. Still, we wanted to know more.

So, as an exercise, we trolled for information and tried to put it together a better picture of what transpired on Yonge Street.We know that about 5:19 p.m. shooting broke out in the vicinity of the Footlocker store on the west side of Yonge Street, just south of Elm. Witnesses estimated eight to ten shots were fired. The circumstances of who fired the shots is still murky, so we'll leave that till last.When the firing stopped, one person was dead and six were hurt, two of them critically.

* Since the shooting was centred on Footlocker, we'll start there. Jane Creba, 15, had been shot in the upper body. She had been shopping with her 18-year-old sister, Alison, on the east side of Yonge, near Sam the Record Man. She crossed the street to go to Footlocker and stepped into the middle of the gun battle. Jane died of her injury.

Helen Yiu, a 20-year-old visa student from Hong Kong, and a classmate at the University of Windsor were walking past the store when they heard a shot and saw people drop to the ground. When Yiu tried to stand, she couldn't; she had been shot in the thigh and ankle.

And her friend (identified in the Toronto Star only as Jeyice) a business major from Malaysia, was wounded, too. To the south, according to one media account, a 15- or 16-year-old boy, shot in the leg, was taken away by ambulance from the area of Eaton Centre.

Another shooting victim, with a bullet hole in his upper right thigh, had run into the lobby of the Atrium on Bay, then into the Red Lobster restaurant inside complex. The manager administered first aid, with the help of two security guards."For someone who had been through what had just happened, he was rather calm," a restaurant spokesman said.

Just north of Footlocker, a black male with a gunshot wound in the back of his leg was down by the Pizza Pizza shop near Yonge and Gould. A 41-year-old off-duty police officer shopping with his wife was nicked by a ricochet, but he didn't need to go to hospital.

And a block further, near Gerrard Street, a severely wounded man collapsed after running for his life. "He was lying on the ground covered in blood," said Matt, a homeless youth who gave only his first name. "He was bleeding and his chest was full of holes," he told reporters.

"He was bleeding pretty badly," he said, adding that the man was able to pull himself up and move around a corner. An ambulance called to the Delta Chelsea Hotel on Gerrard took him to St. Michael's Hospital where he was admitted in critical conditon.Two of the shooting victims were originally reported to be in critical condition. If the man at the Delta Chelsea was one of them, who was the other?

By the process of elimination, it would be Jeyice, Helen Yiu's friend. Helen, home from the hospital, told reporters she couldn't get a straight answer from nurses as to what happened to her friend. Witnesses said they saw a woman shot in the head, and it's possible this was Jeyice and not Jane Creba as everyone assumed.

* With the shooting victims accounted for, the question remains, who shot them?

Witness John O'Brien said he overheard two men arguing behind him on Yonge. He said he then heard a volley of shots and saw four victims on the ground, two in front of the Foot Locker store, and two by the neighbouring Pizza Pizza shop. (Winnipeg Sun)

Vikram, 22, a clerk at Future Shop, rushed out into the street in time to see two men in a dark navy or black BMW firing out the windows. "They were both firing and people were screaming," he said. He couldn't see what kind of guns they had but said the sound was incredibly powerful. "I saw two girls drop. ... I don't know what happened to them." (Toronto Star)

Toronto police are looking for as many as 15 suspects in the Boxing Day gunfight that sent bullets flying through a throng of shoppers, killing a 15-year-old girl and wounding six other bystanders. (The National Post)

Two men in the crowd. Two men in a BMW. 15 suspects. Take your pick.

Well, absolutely nobody said they saw 15 youths with guns shooting it out on Yonge Street, so you can cross that one out. The figure probably comes from a witness who said that about 45 minutes before the gunfire he saw a group of ten youths on one side of Yonge staring down a group of four on the other side.

Police have denied Vikram's story about two men shooting from a BMW. There was a BMW in the area. A 12-year old boy who was staying with family at the Delta Chelsea was interviewed by the Globe and Mail: "Right after the shots I heard a car with an import muffler speed off," said 12-year-old Tristan Perry, a fan of modified foreign cars. "It did a little burnout and sped off."

Two young men were later arrested at a subway station near the shooting scene. Like most people, we though that meant they were in the station waiting for a train. So did CTV: A young man and teenage boy arrested on foot at Castle Frank subway station shortly after the gunfight now face firearms-related charges, but the pair have not been charged in connection with the shootout, police said.

But the Toronto Star on Monday said that "police arrested two male suspects, a young offender and a 20-year-old, in a BMW a few kilometres away at Castle Frank subway station."The newspaper said witnesses were telling them "that one person pulled out a gun and began shooting on the busy shopping street, then others began firing back before two men sped off in a BMW."

Today CTV reported that the adult male arrested at Castle Frank was "20-year-old Andre Thompson ... recently released on probation after serving 30 days for a convenience store robbery. Thompson now faces eight firearms charges, including firing a weapon. He has not been charged with the teen's murder."

* So we're back to the other individual shooters.Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said two men who were standing on the street opened fire for reasons that were not immediately clear. He did not say if the two were shooting at each other or targetting people in the crowd. (Toronto Star)Authorities are careful to say they are treating the wounded as potential witnesses, for now. But what they really mean is that one or more are being considered as shooting suspects.

Top of the list is the chest-shot man near the Delta Chelsea. His wounds indicate he was shot at close range by someone trying to kill him. But where's his gun? Police could follow his blood trail to every trash bin in the two blocks he ran. Were the men in the BMW his accomplices who fled with the weapon?

And if he's one shooter, who's the other? If the police find a gun hidden in the Atrium, then Mr. Cool-and-collected Red Lobster steps up. Or, going by Winnipeg precedents, could it be the shooting victim who walked into Mt. Sinai Hospital all by his lonesome later the day of the shootout? Only one newstory ever mentioned him.

We may get the answers sooner rather than later.

Toronto police chief Bill Blair told the press that investigators knew "within 20 minutes" what led to the Boxing Day shootout on Yonge St. He said they are "aggressively building a case to ensure all the people involved - even associates of the shooters - are brought to justice."
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