Malton residents picking up the pieces a month after 'brazen' deadly shooting

Jayvon Samuels was holding his one-year-old son Zen when he heard the shots.

"It's not the first time something like this has happened … shootings and killings," the lifelong Malton, Ont., resident said. "This has been going on for years."

But this was different. On Sept. 14, the lawn behind his apartment building just west of Toronto turned into a war zone. More than 100 bullets flew in broad daylight. Kids were outside. People were lining up at an ice cream truck.

Samuels, who heard the shots from the side of his building, rushed Zen inside to safety. Then he ran out back to the source of the noise.

There, just a few metres from the back door, was 17-year-old Jonathan Davis, lying limp and bloody in his mother's arms.

"I haven't seen anything like that before. It's the craziest thing I've ever witnessed ... I just couldn't believe it. I was in shock, just what happened," he said.

"Just … seeing his mother holding her son's lifeless body. That was so hard to see."

Davis died that day in what police have called a "brazen" and "ambush-type" attack. Five others — including a 13-year-old girl and a 50-year-old woman — were also hit when a group of shooters in dark clothing and balaclavas opened fire.

Paul Borkwood/CBC
Paul Borkwood/CBC

It's been a month since the attack, but no arrests have been made. Investigators haven't released any suspect descriptions.

"The investigation is ongoing with a dedicated team of detectives working tirelessly around the clock," homicide investigators said in a statement. "At this time, we cannot release any details as to what has been learned, in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation and any future court proceedings."

The shooting dominated headlines in the region last month. Federal political party leaders even weighed in on it while on the campaign trail.

Police have said some of the victims were "innocent bystanders" who were caught in an attack motivated by a music video filmed in the area and released a week earlier.

Investigators believe at least seven shooters were involved, armed mostly with semi-automatic handguns. More than 100 shell casings were recovered at the scene.

The incident has shocked a tight-knit community that's now frightened and searching for answers. A pall hangs over a building in turmoil — full of people sickened by what's happened, but refusing to let violence define the place where they live.

"It's not only bad things that go on here," Samuels said.

"I don't want it to be recognized for that — for the violence."

A creeping fear

At first glance, the long three-storey building on Darcel Avenue, near Morning Star and Goreway drives, shows no evidence of the shooting. The bullet casings and yellow evidence markers once strewn across the parking lot are gone. The shattered windows and windshields have long since been repaired.

But that doesn't mean all is well.

"It's been quieter lately," said 21-year-old Tiana Kennedy, who has lived in the building for over a decade. "It definitely has some sort of cast over this building. You don't really hear people much, you don't really hear kids out here. I can tell it's something that has frightened people.

"You hear one little sound nowadays and people are flinching, you know?"

Supplied by Selma Alincy
Supplied by Selma Alincy

It's a building that's full of families. There's a stuffed toy tied to a third-floor balcony. A trio of small bikes stands next to one of the units on the first floor.

Steps away is a makeshift memorial in the lobby, paying tribute to Davis, a Grade 12 student who was killed just weeks into his final year of high school. The smell of incense hangs in the air around a table lined with cards, flowers and pictures of him.

Some of the flowers have been there so long that they're wilting. In the middle of the table lies a condolences book, full of handwritten messages.

"I am so sad," reads one, simply.

"Lil' bro … too soon," reads another.

Paul Borkwood/CBC
Paul Borkwood/CBC

By all accounts, Davis was a likable, kind, polite kid.

"I knew he was the quiet kid, but also the good one," Kennedy said. "The nice one."

"He was a good boy. He had a bright future," Samuels echoed.

Now, he's gone.

"The people who are responsible, they don't think about things like that," Samuels said.

A close-knit community

They also don't think about the ramifications this kind of violence has on everyone living in the neighbourhood, he said. People all over the building are feeling it.

"I couldn't sleep. I wasn't eating. I love going to the gym, but I couldn't find the energy," Samuels said. "What happened just kept replaying in my head — especially at night. The first two nights I didn't sleep at all."

Paul Borkwood/CBC
Paul Borkwood/CBC

That's where Malton's neighbourhood nature comes in. With a population just under 40,000, residents say it's a close-knit community full of people supporting each other in a way you might not see in bigger centres.

"People have really come together to speak with one another and be there for each other in a time of pain," Samuels said.

There was a candlelight vigil and a community barbecue in the days following the shooting. Family, friends and community members packed a church in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke for a solemn funeral Saturday.

Among gospel songs and poetry, his family and friends shared their pain and memories.

"I don't understand why this happened to him," his sister Shira Davis said. "He was such a sweet person."

In Malton, whenever you need help, there's always someone there, Kennedy said.

"There's a unity here."

But until arrests are made, closure remains elusive. Samuels said he'd like to see results from police on the case.

"That would give the family some closure," he said. "It was a senseless act of crime, and an innocent life was taken."

In a statement, homicide investigators said the community "should be outraged by what took place, just as we are, but we cannot do this alone.

"We encourage anyone with any information, no matter how small, to contact investigators from the homicide bureau or Crime Stoppers."