Thorncliffe Park residents feel 'a little vulnerable' after fatal shooting

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Thorncliffe Park residents feel 'a little vulnerable' after fatal shooting

Both large and tiny fingers dipped makeshift candles into the fire at Thorncliffe Park as the neighbourhood vowed to bring some light back to a community darkened by the fatal shooing of a 25-year-old man last week.    

But Shoaib Asakzai's death is not the only blight on the tight-knit community that attracts newcomers to the country.

There have been other recent incidents of gunfire and violence in the East York neighbourhood, residents say, which prompted Thursday night's vigil.

Those living and working in Thorncliffe Park wanted to remember Asakzai — and to unite against further violence, Nawal Albusaid told CBC Toronto.

"I have never seen a tragedy like this where the whole community for two days have gone silent and quiet," said Albusaid, the programs manager of child and family services at Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office. "We haven't seen youth outside, because they're impacted. And even today, when you ask anyone, you see tears in their eyes.

While 39 per cent of the population in Thorncliffe Park fell beneath the low-income measure on the 2011 National Household Survey — and has an unemployment rate seven percentage points higher than the city's overall — the area's violent crime statistics are well within the average. 

"We've seen a few crimes here and there but it's relatively safe," Albusaid said. "You can walk around the park, you can walk around the community no matter what time of day.

"Unfortunately, in the past few months we have seen our share of ... violence and I think we felt that it was time for us to take action and say, 'We don't accept this and we're going to stand together to stop this from happening.' " 

No suspects

Police have yet to charge anyone in Asakzai's death. 

The 25-year-old was found suffering from multiple gunshot wounds in the parking lot of an apartment building on Thorncliffe Park Drive Saturday and was pronounced dead hours later.

He was remembered Thursday as "good people" and a leader for youth in the community.

And Prince Sibanda said the young man's death has unsettled those living in the area.

"People are beginning to feel a little vulnerable," he said. "It's little things that are adding up. It's traditionally been a very safe neighbourhood, there's not been any major incidents, but I think it's very worrying when it strikes so close to home."

He attributes the recent violence to systemic issues of poverty and unemployment.

"I think what's happening is a reflection of more broad stresses when the social systems start breaking apart," he said.