Rosie Dimanno, thestar.com (Toronto), Mar. 8
Another dazed black mother, emotionally eviscerated, her eyes clouded with incomprehension, probably medicated to numb the pain. But the pain will be there still, the lifelong void, when the narcotic wears off.
“My baby come home?”
Cheryll Piper asked the poignant question yesterday, at police headquarters, asked it of her sister and other relatives who wrapped her in a shuddering embrace, shoulders heaving with sobs.
“You bring my baby home, okay? We take my baby home now?”
This distraught mother’s baby is, was, 22-year-old Jayvien Piper, himself the father of a baby girl.
Toronto homicide victim No.12 in 2004. Shot in the head after leaving a parenting class on Wednesday night, chased down by an assailant riding shotgun in a dark green Honda Civic, chased like a dog on McCowan Rd. in Scarborough. One driver, one shooter, one executed victim sprawled on the pavement.
His aunt, Sharon Piper, speaking for the family: “Our family will never be the same. Our hearts have been ripped out.”
The appeal that followed sounding all too familiar in this season of murder. “My nephew didn’t deserve to be run down and shot to death. Everyone has to pay attention, everyone. Somebody has to know something.
“Jayvien was all alone, running for his life.
“We cannot protect these people. We cannot. They create so much destruction. This can’t happen to anyone else.
“No one is safe. This has to stop. We cannot allow these people to take over our streets.”
But it will happen again, as it has happened repeatedly, now predictably, in recent weeks, the murders occurring more latterly in clusters, two shootings here on this night, three shooting there on another night.
“They” have already taken over the streets, certainly in a handful of benighted neighbourhoods, where killers stalk their prey brazenly, no tremor of fear in their trigger fingers, not an ounce of pity or mercy, undaunted by gangland police squads and politically formulated task forces skewed towards the “root causes” of gun crime.
They must be laughing at us, these amoral killers. Laughing at the grieving mothers who hold up pictures of their murdered sons, begging: “For the love of God, put the guns down.” Laughing at the cops, who’ve made arrests in only one of a dozen homicides this year, as they, too, plead for assistance, for information. Laughing at the preachers and the community leaders and the politicians and the courts, a city reeling from all this bloodshed but unable, apparently, to do a damn thing about it except pick up the bodies. After years of pretending we didn’t have a problem, treating gun crimes as isolated anomalies, blood-splattered reality has overtaken our whistle-past-the-graveyard posturing.
I have in front of me 12 photos, the gallery of victims: Henry Durost, Seyed Soroush Yadollahi, Simeon Peter, Maysam Sharifi, Omar Kente Hortley, Elliott Reid-Thomas, Suzette Augustin, Eion Rush, Paulson Chellakudam, Brenton Charlton, Patrick “Dalton” Pitters and Jayvien Piper, who lingered on life support for two days until his family made the anguishing decision to pull the plug.
An even dozen, all murdered in Toronto over the past 67 days, although the early edition of this paper went to bed last night before the clock struck a new a.m., which might have been time enough to knock off another homicide for '04, the year of the gun.
Not included on this list of corpses is the 22-year-old who came this close to making the cut yesterday morning, shot three times while on his way to visit a friend, attacked by a group of guys on the fourth floor of an apartment building at Islington and Rexdale. A shot to the head, among the other bullet perforations, a hair’s breadth from rendering him an unlucky No.13 on the local hit list. Wrong place, wrong time, say the cops, parroting themselves from earlier shootings, this victim allegedly not knowing his attackers, no motive for the attack, no leads on suspects. Ditto … ditto … ditto …
Twelve homicide victims and precisely one “solved” case. That would be for the murder of Henry Durost. Dr. Henry Durost, victim No. 1 on the calendar, and — not that it’s significant or anything, oh no — but the only lily-white Caucasian among the bunch. Solved, presumably, because the leads were promising and not because Dr. Durost’s life had more value than the others. I am most adamantly not making this suggestion, because I do not believe that race is a factor in police investigations. But damn sure it’s a factor in who’s doing the killing and who’s doing the dying.
And it does seem a bit much that a handful of poisoned dogs — one dead canine in the litter — at Withrow Park would elicit more indignation, more community meetings (from a comfortably middle-class community), and a more prompt response from all manner of cops and city officials than the accumulation of murder victims. The litany of homicides only belatedly drew the attention of Toronto’s new mayor, pushed as he was to address escalating gun crime in the city, where he had previously been more preoccupied with the TTC and a municipal budget deficit and a “new deal” for cities and, oh yeah, killing the proposed bridge to the island. (Really, I cannot think of a more narrowly relevant issue than that bridge. But some constituencies, well, they scan better with politicians.)
The police department tries to defend its own staggering budget to an unsympathetic audience at city council, where the prevailing view is that too much money has been endlessly fed into the policing maw in Toronto. But at one community meeting last week, in one crime-afflicted neighbourhood, residents were beseeching cops and politicians to give them more police officers, clamouring for a greater police presence on the streets, resurrecting the call for civilian policing, a concept that found great favour only a few years ago, when it was trendy and dear to the then-activist police services board. Although, truth to tell, it’s unlikely that community policing — the old-fashioned cop on the beat — could be effectively applied in sprawling suburbia.
And what do our politicians offer these hurting, besieged communities? The Premier tells people not to panic, not to overreact, not to become “gripped by crime,” prisoners in their neighbourhoods. Easy for him to say. The mayor, meanwhile, he’s blamed street crime, in part, on the “legacy” of cuts to social programs, that had apparently “diverted” individuals from crime before those dastardly Tories at Queen’s Park brought ruination on our heads. This is as facile an excuse as Mayor David Miller’s other observation last week — that American society is to blame, whence the importation of guns.
Gang-bangers don’t take to the gun because they’ve been deprived of a basketball court or after-school program, because they’ve been intolerably marginalized by society, or because “root causes” have left them predisposed to violent crime.
They strut and kill because they ascribe to a culture that mythologizes the gang ethos, that promotes street punishment for street crime, that holds forth the allure of easy riches and a testosterone-based swagger.
Little big men with big guns, making the city cower. They discovered a city they could tyrannize, a flailing police presence they could ignore, a justice system they could manipulate, and a society on which they could superimpose their own perverse criminal constitution.
What need they fear from us now?