Homicide detectives have posted a $50,000 reward in an attempt to obtain information about three suspects in an unsolved double-fatal shooting in a Kensington Market-area lounge nearly two years ago.
Det. Steve Henkel provided new details Wednesday about the deaths of a former professional Toronto skateboarder, Justin Bokma, and a father of two, Lafrance "Frank" Matthews, at Toronto police headquarters.
The shooting happened in what police called an "illegal" after-hours lounge, called Retox, located above a bar on College Street near Augusta Avenue, a few blocks west of Spadina Avenue, in the early hours of Canada Day 2016.
Both Bokma, 42, and Matthews, 41, were employees at the lounge, said Henkel, when they were fatally shot.
Bokma had been working as a doorman when he intervened in an altercation that broke out upstairs shortly after 5 a.m. Police say he was trying to disarm a gunman when he was shot.
Bokma was pronounced dead inside the lounge, while Matthews was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and later died, according to paramedics and police.
Two other men, aged 34 and 45, made their way to hospital later that morning with non-life-threatening injuries.
3 suspects were selling drugs at lounge
Toronto police are searching for three gunman they say were dealing drugs at the lounge that night and fled the scene on foot.
The suspects are all described as being black men in their 20s and 30s:
- The first, believed to be in his mid-to-late 20s, is approximately 5'9" with a skinny build and wears his hair in thin, shoulder-length braids.
- The second, believed to be in his 30s, goes by the "Mo" or "Moe," police say. He is described as approximately 5'6" with a skinny build, dark complexion, and a large head and teeth, some of which are crooked. His right arm and hard are distinctively smaller and skinnier, but still useable, said Henkel.
- The third, in his early 20s to early 30s, is approximately 5'9" with a medium build and is clean shaven.
Police say somebody knows who suspects are
This is the first time detectives have released any information about the suspects. While it's still unclear if any of the victims or shooters knew one another, Henkel explained the three suspects frequented the club and were known by its owner. Investigators believe they are still frequenting after-hours clubs in the city.
"Somebody out there knows who these three individuals are," he said, noting that between 40 and 50 people were inside when the shots were fired.
But since it's an "underground" location, Henkel says only 10 witnesses have come forward with information.
He hopes the reward will encourage people to "come out of the shadows."
"Whether you were there drinking after-hours or not, what we want are witnesses to this homicide," he said.
Nancy Bokma lost her youngest son that day. She described the last two years she has spent searching for answers as hell.
"The fact that people know and won't come forward is very frustrating," she said, adding her son didn't deserve what happened to him.
Bokma dominated Toronto's skateboard scene in the 1990s and early 2000s, and later helped kids learn the sport.
"He was a hero to all sorts of young skateboarders because he was famous for that earlier in his life," his friend Richard Lett previously told CBC Toronto.
Matthews, meanwhile, was a beloved father of a boy and a girl, both under the age of 10. He also worked as a bartender at Einstein Cafe and Pub, located across the street from the University of Toronto.
Matthews' sister, Julia, said he had only worked at Retox for a few months before he was killed. She remembered him as a very loving father who was charismatic and often spent his time helping people.
The suspects, she said, "are the types of people who deserve to have their freedom taken away from them because they took so much from us."
Spike in gun violence
The news conference comes a day after Toronto police launched Project Red Brick, a new initiative aiming to stomp out increasing levels of gun violence in the downtown core.
Like other major cities in the country, Toronto has seen a spike in shootings and gang-related violence in recent years.
In 2017, the city reported 594 shooting victims — more than double the number in 2014.
Gun violence has been rising since 2015. Here's a breakdown of the number of shootings and victims since then, based on Toronto police stats:
- 2015: 288 shootings, 429 victims.
- 2016: 407 shootings, 581 victims.
- 2017: 395 shootings, 594 victims.
Toronto police Supt. Tony Riviere explained Project Red Brick's goal is to analyze past incidents of gun violence and "[try] to come up with a way of stymieing and suppressing that behaviour to ensure that we have a peaceful summer."