Murder charges may follow a joint police services investigation into rival street gangs.
Inspector Gord Sneddon, of the Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force, made the disclosure at a press conference at police headquarters on May 29, a day after Toronto Police – with assistance from other law enforcement agencies – executed 53 search warrants across the Greater Toronto Area, resulting in more than 50 arrests.
Rival gangs – Asian Assassins and Sick Thugz – were the target of the Project Battery and Project RX
“What we are alleging, quite simply, is that these people on both sides were involved in criminal organizations trafficking drugs and guns and, in the process of doing that, they were quite prepared to resort to extreme acts of violence to support these tasks,” said Sneddon. “There is a homicide component to this investigation and the Homicide Squad has been involved from the inception.”
In February 2013, Tony Nguyen was executed at the Vy Vy restaurant and lounge in the city’s west end and, a month later, Michael Nguyen was ambushed and shot to death in the Yorkdale Shopping Centre parking lot. Two months later, a man was shot several times while dining at Joey’s restaurant at the Yorkdale Shopping Centre, while Byron Linares died of single gunshot wound inside a ninth-floor condo in the Yonge St. & Sheppard Ave. E. area in June 2013.
“These are still active and ongoing investigations and the Homicide Squad still need the public’s assistance to help solve these crimes,” Sneddon pointed out. “I can tell you from the investigations, so far, there’s an indication there is a direct connection with the Asian Assassins.”
Sneddon said at different points during the two investigations, police had to step in to interrupt violent acts.
Some of the guns, drugs and money seized during the two projects were displayed at police headquarters.
In addition to about 30 firearms and 1,100 rounds of ammunition seized, police also seized eight sets of body armour, cash and a large quantity of drugs, including 1.3 kilos of cocaine, 7.2 kilos of heroin and 26 kilos of marijuana.
Sneddon disclosed that four of the guns seized were legitimately purchased by individuals who later recycled them into the criminal market.
Organized Crime Enforcement Superintendent Doug Quan said the investigations are ongoing.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to do: forensics and ballistics testing,” he said. “…These were two intensive investigations focused on firearms and gun trafficking. This has allowed us to examine the rivalry between the two groups and get a better understanding of the dynamics of the violence that plague our communities at times. The investigations have been very proactive and we have been very pre-emptive.”
Quan thanked all the law enforcement agencies involved in the two operations and police raids on May 28, and said several arrests and searches were made prior to yesterday’s takedowns across the city.
A total of 94 arrests have been made since the investigations were launched almost a year ago.
Led by the Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force, with support from the Ontario Provincial Police Provincial Weapons Enforcement Team, Project RX focused on the Sick Thugz, while Project Battery – spearheaded by the Asian Organized Crime Task Force, a multi-agency unit comprising officers from Toronto Police, OPP, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) York, Peel and the Canadian Border Services Agency – zeroed in on the Asian Assassins.
OPP Chief Superintendent Hugh Stevenson expressed pride at the investigative diligence and cooperation displayed by the Asian Organized Crime Task Force and its partners.
“Weapons enforcement in today’s environment, and with our limited resources, is far too big and too important for any one law enforcement agency to manage alone,” he said. “Consequently, we once again partnered in our efforts to combat gun crime and address the impact it has on the safety of the communities we all serve.
“The distribution of illegal guns and drugs has destructive impacts on the lives of people and their communities. They also lead to a wide spectrum of violent acts and property crime involving criminal organizations.”
The people arrested on May 28, along with those who had been previously snared by police, face a number of charges including trafficking firearms, drugs and firearms possession, human trafficking, armed robbery and conspiracy to commit robbery.