Wednesday, May 28, 2014
50 arrested in raids across Toronto
Acting Toronto Police chief Mark Saunders said two operations, known as Project RX and Project Battery, have been ongoing for nearly a year. Officers focused on the Sic Thugs and Asian Assassinz, he said.
“Both gangs are allegedly rival gangs and each have been involved in a series of shootings that have occurred in the city of Toronto,” Saunders said.
Police from across the province raided 53 addresses in and outside of the city around 5 a.m. They seized 10 guns, cocaine, heroin and marijuana during the raids. Two cocaine presses were also seized.
“These two rival gangs are incredibly ruthless,” said Saunders.
Those arrested face a variety of charges which include armed robbery, human trafficking and weapons and drug offences.
Police would not name any of the accused gangsters or even disclose the courthouses where the alleged offenders will appear, citing security concerns.
In addition to Toronto force, officers from Peel, York, Durham, Waterloo, Guelph, Windsor, London, Hamilton, Belleville, South Simcoe, Halton, Brantford, Niagara and the RCMP helped execute the warrants.
“They have put a significant dent (in) the violence that has occurred in city,” said Saunders.
Saunders said the unique thing about the case is the level of sophistication of both gangs. Typically, gangsters centre their activities in a small geographic location but members of these gangs committed crimes across the GTA, he said.
“Now we’re starting to see these gangs have that violence ... but they also have a much stronger level of sophistication, have a much stronger level of organization and that’s something to be concerned with at this point.”
Both gangs have been linked to high-profile shootings in recent years at busy malls. Last April, an internal dispute is believed to have resulted in the murder of a member of the Asian Assassins at Yorkdale Mall. In June 2012, a three men with suspected links to the Sic Thugs were killed in a shooting at the Eaton Centre.
Dozens of locations were raided across the GTA, including a new condo development on Western Battery Rd. in upscale Liberty Village.
The neighbourhood was quiet hours after the raids with no sign of police presence. But on the 12th floor, an apartment door was smashed just above the deadbolt lock and the doorway was covered in yellow caution tape.
Jordan, who lives next door, said he saw police swarming around the building around 6:30 a.m. as he was on his way to the gym.
“I saw a tactical team in this big SUV-type vehicle that looked like it was a moving van,” he said. “There were officers in the lobby and all over the place. It’s pretty surprising this type of stuff is going on around here.”
Jordan said while the raid was shocking, the high-profile gang shootings need police attention.
“It’s one thing when these guys are shooting it out in dark alleys,” he said. “It’s completely another when they duke it out in a crowded mall.”
Another man who lives next door to the building said drugs and crime can be found anywhere in the city.
“I’m not surprised,” he said after learning of the raid. “You hear about it, even in this area. You find it all over the city now.”
The Asian Assassinz' history in Toronto spans more than a decade and involves a long trail of carnage and crime.
The street gang's traditional turf has been the Vanauley Walk area, near Spadina and Dundas Sts. The gang was most recently in the news when one of its members, 23-year-old Michael Nguyen, was ambushed and killed "execution style" outside of Yorkdale Mall over Easter weekend last year.
Nguyen and another 24-year-old man who was wounded, were targeted by two gunmen in the parking lot of the shopping centre, Toronto Police said at the time.
"They left the mall together and were walking to a parked car when the shooting began," Det. Rob North said at a press conference last year.
Nguyen was initially shot and tried to run for his life, but a gunman chased him and finished the job, hitting him with as many as eight shots, North said.
The other man, also an Asian Assassinz member, was shot as he fled but survived.
Another member of the gang, Qoheleth Chong, 23, was murdered in November 2012.
Nguyen and Chong were involved in a brutal home invasion in 2005 when they were young teens. They drove from Toronto to Windsor with two other gang members, forced their way into a home they believed contained a stash of cash and held the occupants -- a man and his girlfriend -- at gunpoint.
The woman, Brandi Liles, was stabbed during the home invasion, which ended with Windsor Police arresting the four Asian Assassinz.
Nguyen and Chong were sentenced as adults to five years in prison in 2008, but after being credited for time served on a two-for-one basis, they were freed after two years and seven months.
In 2004, eight members of the gang were busted after a series of jewelry store robberies along Spadina. One of the shops was hit for more than $80,000. All of the members were under 18 at the time.
The gang would storm in wearing masks. One would pull out a gun and order the victims to the floor, while the others grabbed cash, jewelry and cellphones.
"They've been terrorizing the Asian business community for months," Hold-up Squad Det. Rick Downs said at the time.
Members of the Sic Thugs, a violent downtown street gang, were at the centre of a terrifying 2012 shootout in the Eaton Centre.
The Regent Park gang bangers were at the heart of the incident that left two dead and five wounded, including a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head.
Ahmed Hassan, 24, and Nixon "Nix" Nirmalendran, 22, were killed and the alleged gunman, Christopher Husbands, 23, faces two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder. It's believed the shooting happened as retaliation for a beating Husbands received from the two men, both fellow gang members.
As reported by the Toronto Sun's Chris Doucette in 2012, all three were hardened criminals with a history of alleged involvement in the drug trade.
At the time of the shooting, Hassan was a fugitive wanted for serious crimes in Fort McMurray, Alta., and Husbands was under house arrest for a sex assault charge. Nirmalendran, who died in hospital nine days after he was shot four times in the mall mayhem, also had a long history of run-ins with the law.
Members of the now-defunct Point Blank Soldiers, a Regent Park gang that preceded the Sic Thugs, were also tied to the 2005 Boxing Day shooting that cost 15-year-old Jane Creba her life and left numerous others wounded on Yonge St. just north of the Eaton Centre.
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