A second suspect was charged on Thursday with first-degree murder in connection with a fatal shooting that occurred during what has been called a protest over police shooting of a teenage boy earlier this month.
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Toronto police chief Bill Blair, himself a black man, said the suspect, 18-year-old Michael Danhakali, had been detained without incident about 10:30 a.m. Thursday at an apartment building in Toronto’s west end, following an investigation by homicide detectives.
Mayor John Tory said at an afternoon news conference that he had been informed by Blair that Danhakali had confessed to the murder and that an arrest was likely. Blair said Danhakali “was identified very early on and as a result of that, a lot of the information and evidence was gathered.”
“I have no doubt we will find more people with knowledge of this homicide and others,” Blair said, and that “if there are others, we will find them quickly and get them in custody, too.”
Detective Sgt. Jason Southwick told reporters that Blair was authorized to lay charges.
On Monday, police announced the arrest of 18-year-old Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, who was charged with first-degree murder. A suspect said to be Danhakali, who is known to police, was previously reported to be arrested on suspicion of supplying a firearm to someone he knew who was involved in the shooting of Danhakali’s best friend, Fabrice Gevaudan, in July 2015. That friend, an 18-year-old man, died from a gunshot wound to the head, as well.
The shooting took place in the early morning hours of June 6, in the city’s downtown, as thousands of people attended a vigil for 14-year-old Jordan Manners, who was killed earlier that day in an apparent carjacking. Jordan’s funeral was attended by thousands of people from Toronto’s black community.
The next day, a large group of people gathered to protest in support of the teenage boy. Protesters identified the boy killed as Samuel Sheng, who had gone by the name Xxanda in the media. On Monday, Blair said police received reports that an armed black male, described as about 6 feet tall, was seen “brandishing a weapon in a northern Toronto neighbourhood.”
During a news conference that day, Blair said the armed suspect “did not respond to the call to drop the weapon and eventually engaged in a confrontation with members of our service.”
“This shooting occurred during a period of protest and tension in the city, but it was a different situation yesterday when it happened,” Blair said. “The public had every right to gather in that area. They had every right to be angry. We respect their right.”
On Tuesday, John Tory, the city’s mayor, called for calm, noting that the fight for reform in the police force was “much bigger than any one case, any one street corner.”
“Let us all remain calm and allow this investigation to continue,” he said.
While police indicated that Tasers and additional police resources might have contributed to their decision to fire on Sheng, some witnesses alleged that police had used “excessive force” against Sheng.
Two members of the Toronto Police Services Board, appointed by the mayor, have said they are considering creating an independent police civilian oversight agency and called for greater transparency.
On Wednesday, the Star reported that some protesters fear that the police were provoked and that some of them had come under verbal attack and had been questioned by investigators. All areas of the city where protests occurred have been roped off. On Monday, Sheng’s mother said she wanted the Ontario province to take over policing.
On Thursday, Blair told reporters that “any excesses will be reviewed by a full force review within the Toronto Police Service” and that “public safety will not be compromised.”
“There’s no question that we regret what happened,” Blair said. “There are lessons to be learned from this incident. What happened yesterday, was totally unacceptable and it’s a reflection of some very poor judgment.”