Homicide investigators are asking the public's assistance identifying suspects responsible for last week’s Lawrence Heights shooting, which left a community role model dead and two others injured.
Local teacher and volunteer, 31-year-old Abshir Hassan, died in the shooting at 11 Flemington Road, shortly after midnight on July 8, 2014.
Along with police, his family and friends have made an appeal for any assistance the public might have to help solve the case.
According to Homicide Detective Sergeant Steve Ryan, the suspects are believed to be young black men and escaped in what is believed to be a silver sedan.
Police are also asking residents who have personal security camera footage north and east of Flemington Road to review it for the night of the shooting.
Hassan was described as a kind and giving person who put others before him. His friends said he was more like a brother – a family member –rather than just a friend.
Hassan’s father, Ahmed Hassan, is asking that anyone with information come forward so the family and everyone he knew may get some peace.
“It will give us, at lease, come solace in our hearts… (the) need to have peace in our hearts. Not only us, as a family, but the whole community he was helping.”
Ahmed described the killing of his son as senseless.
“For anyone that Abshir walked home, for anyone Abshir gave a listening ear to, for anything… please, you guys, be there for us. We’re never going to get him back and this is the least we can do for him,” said an old school friend of Hassan’s, who did not want to be identified, but said she was one of many whose life he touched.
While Hassan’s family lived in Vaughan and he had the means to relocate, he wished to remain in the area, said Ryan.
His friend O’neil Williams, also a teacher, said that one cannot understand the pain of such an incident and that the community must act now before it happens again.
“Every summer, shootings like this happen and we need to… as a community… sit down and have a discussion so things like this do not happen,” he said.
At Hassan’s memorial service, that drew 1,500 people, many children came up to the uniform officers present to let them know how much he meant to them, added Ryan.
“He was a terrific role model for the kids in the community… he was like a hero to them,” said Ryan.
For anyone that Abshir walked home, for anyone Abshir gave a listening ear to, for anything… please, you guys, be there for us. We’re never going to get him back and this is the least we can do for him
A popular teacher with students at Lawrence Heights Middle School, students would often cheer when he would walk through the class door to substitute a class, said Ahmed.
Although he was a supply teacher at the middle school, the hours he spent with students at the school made him almost a staff member. “Kids would come up to me and say “Mr. deBelle, we need Abshir teaching here at our school, they wanted him on staff,” said the Principal of Lawrence West Middle School, David deBelle, adding that children gravitated towards him and wanted to talk to him.
He had collaborated on a book about violence-free education, said his friend Tesfai Mengesha, and worked closely with the equity department of the Toronto District School Board.
His dedication to the Lawrence Heights community was visible when he would volunteer at the middle school versus taking paid days at another school or the hours he spent with children after school.
“Abshir dedicated his life to helping people and it would only be fair to ask if we could give him this help back,” said his father, while his friends wiped tears from their faces.
According to Ryan, it was right after midnight, while Hassan was standing on his porch at 11 Flemington Road with the two other victims, that two men came running around the corner of the building and fired shots. Hassan and one victim fell to the floor, while the third was able to jump over the fence. The incident lasted less than a minute.
In just a matter of minutes, a young man, local resident and role model in the community lost his life.
Now Ryan and his team need any help they can get to apprehend the culprits for this crime. They are asking public to step up and contact them with any information they may have.
Ryan can be reached at 416-808-7408. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at 222tips.com or text TOR and your message to CRIMES (274637).
Every summer, shootings like this happen and we need to… as a community… sit down and have a discussion so things like this do not happen