TORONTO - Teams of street gang specialists began combing known gang hangout neighbourhoods in a bid to prevent revenge attacks after the worst mass shooting in Toronto's history, the city's top cop announced Tuesday.
In addition to its gang-crime units, Chief Bill Blair said supervisors have "deployed significant uniformed resources into communities where we fear retaliation."
They include the Toronto neighbourhoods of Scarborough, Rexdale and North York, Blair said, and the historically gang-plagued Jane-Finch area.
"We are very concerned for retaliatory vengeance," he said, declining to characterize the shooting at a barbecue on an east-end residential street as part of a gang war.
But with partygoers likely coming from other areas, "there are other neighbourhoods that could be impacted," Blair said, calling the Danzig St. shooting "unprecedented" and requiring "immediate action."
There is a "strong indication of gang involvement," but despite believing they have good investigative leads," he said it was too early in the hunt for the shooters to reveal further detail.
Blair said he doesn't want to risk releasing information that could harm future court proceedings.
One handgun was seized after gunfire erupted around 10:42 p.m. Monday at the house party in Toronto's east-end Scarborough neighbourhood. The high volume of shots suggests they were firing semi-automatics.
Based on information given to police, Blair said gunfire was exchanged between two men, leaving two "innocent" people dead and 24 others ranging in age from 22 months to 33 years suffering various wounds.
Shyanne Charles, 14, of Toronto, and Joshua Yasay, 23, of Ajax, became Toronto's 27th and 28th murder victims of the year when they were pronounced dead where they fell.
Paramedics treated the wounded for wide-ranging injuries as slight as "grazing," Blair said, lauding their quick response to 911 calls.
Several of the 16 survivors taken to hospital were released, but one man undergoing surgery was left in critical condition.
Police are striving to "very quickly" bring this year's latest public shooting to a "quick resolution," the chief said. Those responsible "have to be held accountable."Referring to the June 2 shooting of seven people at the Eaton Centre, a crowded downtown shopping mall, in which two men were killed, plus the Boxing Day 2005 shooting death of teenage shopper Jane Creba, he said police efforts are aimed at protecting the "safety of the innocents.
Blair said the "very brazen type of depraved violence is characteristic of people with a gang mentality."
"We have received some co-operation from individuals at the scene," he said, adding that police have identified one person of interest as the investigation continues.
Of the 23 injured by gunfire and the one person trampled in the chaos, Blair said many of these people were innocent individuals.
Some of the wounded were hit by projectiles that had already struck other victims.
When the shooting started, many people in a crowd estimated at more than 100 fled, which was a natural fear reaction, the chief said.
But he appealed to anyone who was there especially those with video or photos and who care for the safety of themselves, loved ones and their community to contact the police homicide squad.
Blair also issued a warning about anyone who is linked to gang members: "If you associate with such individuals, you put yourself at risk."
Asked about increasing gun incidents in the city, he said, "Today is not, in my opinion, a day to reflect on statistics."
He said police did not have prior knowledge about the barbecue, which was "just recently organized."
He said Toronto Police were very effective in tackling gangs and related shootings seven years ago, when the Gun and Gang unit was formed.
Blair said he contacted Premier Dalton McGuinty and Mayor Rob Ford after Monday's shooting.
"I believe Toronto is a very safe and liveable place, but last night (that street) was not a safe place, he said.
In a statement, the city's police overseers expressed support for the investigation.
"The Toronto Police Services Board is saddened to learn of the loss of life and the injuries resulting from the horrible shooting incident," chairman Alok Mukherjee said.
"The board expresses its condolences to the families who have been so dreadfully affected by this senseless violence."We fully support the efforts being made by the Toronto Police Service under Chief Blair's leadership and are confident that those responsible will be identified and charged.
"Everyone's co-operation is required in order to solve this crime.