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Rapper lethally targeted in brazen gunplay on downtown Toronto street


TORONTO — A brazen daylight ambush and shootout on a busy downtown street that cost an up-and-coming rap artist his life this week could have caused numerous casualties among bystanders, police in Toronto said on Thursday.

The terrifying gunplay that killed Dimarjio Jenkins, 21, who went by the rap name Houdini, also left two people injured, including a 15-year-old boy now charged with firearms offences and a woman bystander.

"He quite clearly has no regard for human life," Det.-Sgt. Andy Singh said of a wanted suspect. "This was an active gunfight happening on one of the busiest street corners of our city. This is unacceptable."

According to police, at least 23 shots were fired in Tuesday's firefight in the Entertainment District that erupted after suspects waiting in a parked car for Jenkins, who had an AirBnB nearby, got out and opened fire on him. Two associates with him as they were walking on Blue Jays Way to a vehicle drew guns and returned fire.

Witnesses reported panic as people fled the area, while Jenkins collapsed and died from his injuries.

"It's a targeted shooting," Singh said. "I believe Mr. Jenkins was the target."

A 27-year-old woman bystander hit by a stray bullet was expected to recover fully. Bullets narrowly missed others, including a mother and her six-year-old son, police said.

The woman was loading her car while the boy waited for her. At one point, the child, who had been in the line of fire, ducked into a nearby vestibule to shield himself.

"They were just unfortunately very close to a completely lethal situation," Singh said. "There were numerous people in the neighbourhood. A lot of people's lives could have been put in jeopardy."

Jenkins grew up in Brampton, Ont., and was said to be one of the most-streamed independent Canadian rappers. Warner Music Canada, which worked with him on a compilation album showcasing Toronto's "rising stars," had said in a statement he was "exceptionally talented."

"Houdini had unlimited potential as an artist and we are incredibly saddened that his life was cut short," said Steve Kane, president of Warner Music Canada.

Police said it was too early to speculate about motive or any gang involvement in his death.

An image of one suspect was clearly captured in what Singh called "gut-wrenching" surveillance video that showed part of the action.

The 15-year-old in custody ducked down an alley after being hit once. He was known to police previously.

The suspects' vehicle, a blue Volkswagen Tiguan, had been rented for most of a month, police said. It was found burnt out late Wednesday north of the city and was undergoing forensic analysis.

Police also recovered two firearms from Jenkins' associates as well as a high-capacity, 30-round magazine. Recovered shell casings came from a .40 calibre and nine millimetre weapon.

In releasing surveillance video of the incident, police pleaded for help, asking anyone with any piece of relevant information to come forward.

"These people should not be on the street," Chief Mark Saunders said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2020.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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