Investigators struck a blow to a main artery of violence in the city.
Over 600 officers took part in 43 search warrants, Thursday morning, as the culmination of Project Sizzle that targeted members and associates of the Heart of a King gang, resulting in 32 arrests in Toronto, Peel, Halton, Durham and Montreal. Prior to the June 2 takedown, 39 search warrants and 21 arrests were made and 16 firearms have been seized.
Police displayed drugs, firearms, bulletproof vests and property seized at a news conference at police headquarters June 2.
“It speaks to what tools this gang uses for their day-to-day business,” Chief Mark Saunders said, noting the expensive property allegedly obtained through violence, fraud and prostitution always leads to jail time. “These types of lifestyles are always short-lived... No one has run the gauntlet and been successful in the end. It always leads to this.”
The joint forces investigation led by the Integrated Gun and Gang Task Force, that began in January, also found links to two homicides, said Inspector Bryan Bott.
Kyle Sparks-MacKinnon, 26, of Toronto, was arrested in connection with the shooting deaths of David Eminess, 26, and Quinn Taylor, 29, on Spadina Ave. this year, as well as Charles Shillingford, last year. The Spadina shooting also saw three bystanders struck by bullets.
Jahmal Richardon, 31, of Oakville; Mitchel Mannette, 23; and Denzell Desmond, 19; both of Nova Scotia, have also been charged with First-Degree Murder in Shillingford’s death.
The project was supported by the Ontario Provincial Police, Peel Regional Police as well as the Montreal and Halifax Police Services.
“This is a very big and lengthy investigation. It had many tentacles to it,” Chief Saunders said. “This is such a strong testament to the importance of partnerships. Policing in general has learned how to work together and, when we work together, we get to have the amazing conclusions that we have today.”
But Chief Saunders said there is much more work being done across all units of the Service to quell a spike in gunplay in the city.
“We’ve had a look at where the crime spikes are happening and we put people in those areas to help with the reduction piece… this is a good starting point.”
Chief Saunders said 367 firearms have been taking off the streets this year.
The Chief also noted that enforcement, alone, will not solve the problem of violence in the city and pointed to police partnerships and programs with social agencies, a program to divert young first offenders from courts and putting more resources in high-crime neighbourhoods.
Investigators displayed weapons, drugs, cash and body armour seized during Project Sizzle as well as the trappings of gang lifestyle.
They allege that Jahmal “Bam(bino)” Richardson led the HOK gang and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle including high-end cars and jewellery. A painting of him seated at a throne surrounded by women and money was displayed in the news conference, as well as a photo of him sitting on a Bentley.
“I suggest that’s what he might think of himself,” Bott said, of the painting.
“This gang, through intelligence information, we know had a high propensity for violence,” said Bott, alleging that the gang, that has strong ties to Nova Scotia, uses firearms and drug trafficking, fraud and prostitution to fuel their lifestyle.
Police seized marijuana, cocaine, ketamine, $45,000 in cash and $300,000 in property.