Community members in a northwest Toronto neighbourhood went on a prayer walk on Wednesday after two recent back-to-back shootings left a man dead and a teen boy injured.
Toronto police helped to organize the walk in the Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue area. The walk, which began at the Driftwood Community Centre, drew Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw, police chaplains, officers from 31 Division and people whose lives have been rocked by gun violence.
Demkiw said police reached out to the faith community to organize the event, building on a strategy to create meaningful connections.
“We’re here to meet with the community during a particularly challenging time,” Demkiw said before the event.
“We basically building on a model that has existed for some time, which we refer to as the Etobicoke strategy, which is a relationship we have with the faith community, where we take opportunities to walk in the community, engage with community, with faith leaders, to build resilience, to build trust and confidence, and again, to help return a safe of safety and security,” he said.
On Feb. 16, a 16-year-old boy was shot in the face at a bus stop near Jane Street and Driftwood Avenue at about 6 p.m. The attack left the teen victim with potentially “life-altering” injuries, police have said.
A day later, Adu Boakye, 39, originally from Ghana, was gunned down in the same area. Investigators have said he was shot three times, twice in the stomach, and later died in hospital.
Both were shot indiscriminately, according to police.
Pastor Hyacinth Sidcheron, who works in the community, told reporters that she hopes the prayer walk will help to bring peace to the neighbourhood and show that change can happen.
“As a leader, as a mother, this year poses more of a challenge and a concern especially when it’s in your backdoor,” she said.
Sidhcheron said not all people in the community trust the police but if the community works together with officers, they can make a difference.
Police have said the attacks were carried out randomly by the same suspect or suspects. They said the victims didn’t know each other or the suspect, nor were they involved in gang activity.
No arrests have been made, but police have released a photo of a suspect and said they found a stolen black Acura linked to the attacks in Hamilton.
An online fundraiser to support Boakye’s wife and four children in Ghana has raised more than $40,000.
A community vigil in honour of Boakye drew dozens of community members on Saturday. Some who attended the vigil brought flowers, others wore shirts with his photo that read, “In memory of Adu Boakye.”
Richardson Adorsu, one of Boakye’s friends, described him as a family man who loved children and could always be counted on for good advice.
Boakye was “a good man, an angel on Earth,” Adorsu said.
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