TORONTO — A Toronto neighbourhood is struggling to come to grips with the deaths of two young people killed in a shootout at a block party this week.
Shyanne Charles, 14, and Joshua Yasay, 23, died after gunmen opened fire Monday night at a barbecue outside a social housing complex.
Charles lived in the neighbourhood and a community organizer said Wednesday that she often helped out at a sports program for at-risk youth.
“She was a good individual; young, smart, intelligent, very mature for her age, helped out a lot with younger kids in the community, and everybody just liked her,” said Jam Johnson, who runs the neighbourhood basketball association.
Johnson said the deadly shooting, which police are calling the worst incident of gun violence in Toronto’s recent history, has shaken the diverse community in the city’s east end.
“It’s only sinking in to me now,” he said. “I still don’t believe that many people were shot and now Shyanne’s (death) is sinking in to me.”
Friends and family members of the young girl have created a memorial Facebook page called “R.I.P. Shyanne Charles.”
Damian Charles, who identified himself as a cousin of Shyanne, said some of them were at the outdoor party at the time of the shooting.
“It’s a hard situation. It’s beyond hard to deal with,” Damian Charles said.
“Shyanne and I grew up together and were very close,” he said, adding the family is “coping the best they can.”
“A lot of us are trying to do other things to keep our minds off of it. I myself want to be out there finding the people who did this… but I know it’s not my job,” Damian Charles said. “I’ll leave it to the law, as will the rest of us.”
He also said that Shyanne was an average teenage girl who enjoyed spending time with friends, was active in the community and hated violence.
Damian Charles said he is disgusted that the gunmen would open fire in an area packed with innocent people, some of them young children.
“I am embarrassed to say that this city is my home sometimes knowing that there is people this pathetic lurking in it,” he said. “They need to be put to justice.”
Speaking from their family home in Ajax, east of Toronto, Joshua Yasay’s family said they are still reeling from the loss.
“We’re dealing now with funeral arrangements, ” said Yasay’s older sister, Jennilyn Yasay. “We haven’t even seen Joshua yet … It’s still fresh right now.”
Jennilyn Yasay said the family is still waiting to see her brother’s body, which is being kept at the chief coroner’s office in Toronto.
The incident, which sent 23 people to hospital with gunshot wounds, has sparked fears of American-style gun wars.
Police have called for witnesses to come forward to help with the investigation.