Monday, January 21, 2008

Innocent Bystander Who Came To Canada For A New Life Loses His Own On A Busy Street

Innocent Bystander Who Came To Canada For A New Life Loses His Own On A Busy Street
Friday January 18, 2008 Staff

His name was Hou Chang Mao and he was the father of two children - an 18-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son.

Toronto Police have identified the 47-year-old as the latest innocent bystander killed on the streets of Toronto. Cops say Mao was working in the Fu Yao Supermarket on Gerrard near Broadview when two men came onto the scene and began shooting at each other. They either didn't know or didn't care that the hardworking victim was standing nearby.

"As Mr. Mao stood outside stacking oranges on the front display, two shots rang out, mortally wounding the father of two," explains Det. Sgt. Pauline Gray. "He staggered back to his place of employment and fell." He was rushed to St. Michael's Hospital but died minutes later in the emergency room.

Autopsy results show he succumbed to a gunshot wound to the torso.

Mao was a Toronto resident who had only recently returned to the country. He had just brought his daughter over from China to join him, an event both had been looking forward to, as part of a new life in Canada. Police say he has an extended family here and all of them all devastated by his shocking loss.

The kids who revered their father were understandably too upset to talk to the media on Friday. But their cousin knows the pain they're feeling. "They were so sad," agrees Wei Hang Mao. "They were very sad about that."

Cops don't know what sparked the dispute but they do have some clues - two black men were seen fleeing the area in a silver-coloured car with a shiny, silver round-shaped grille. Gray notes that last description is an important clue. The grille was "very shiny - more shiny than the rest of the car."

Detectives don't think they're the killers, but they may have been the people who were being shot at. And they're urging them and the gunmen to come forward before detectives locate them.

And they have good reason to think they will. Police have a lot of good security video and feel sure they've captured their images, prompting this warning from Gray. "I've got you on camera. Somewhere, somehow in the hundreds of hours, we'll find you in there. This is your opportunity to come forward first."

In the meantime, she's hoping area residents will provide clues they may not know they had, and insists anything - no matter how insignificant - will be useful.

"It was very busy at 6 o'clock. I can tell you that the streets were full, it was like Manhattan. And there are many, many people out there who saw what happened. They don't have to know the whole story, they just have to see one tiny piece."

Police promise the public they won't rest until they find the people behind the brazen act of cowardice.

" We're ... doing everything we can to apprehend the suspects, and my message to the Chinese community at large in the Toronto area, this is the time for action. This is time as we as a group of citizens, we need to work with the police closely," advises Insp. Peter Yuen. "Only with your help we can bring these people to justice, and also allow our officers to do their jobs, and I implore the Chinese community, and other communities to come forward to assist us."

Gray is angry that the triggermen didn't care about others. "Whatever the perceived slight or disagreement between the two groups, surely they cannot justify or walk away from the fact that they, in their reckless actions, killed an innocent man."

The evidence of the ferocity of the short but dangerous dispute is everywhere - bullet holes dot some windows and parked cars, mute testimony to the randomness of the gunfire. Cops were still on the scene the morning after, and a stretch of the busy roadway remained sealed off as the investigation continued.

Those who live in the area are stunned by the violence and realize anyone could have been hit. "It's just like part of life," one man sighs. "Unfortunately, that's the way things are. Like it's kind of a hit and miss thing. Hopefully, it won't happen to me."

Phillip Chung lives near the supermarket and is furious at the loss of a neighbourhood fixture. "I'm just shocked. I'm really shocked. I mean he doesn't deserve all this."

This latest outrage follows the killing of another man in the wrong place at the wrong time on Saturday morning. Forty-two-year-old John O'Keefe, the father of a young boy, was gunned down as he left a pub near Yonge and Bloor, accidentally getting caught up in a dispute between a bouncer and two men at a strip club. Both suspects have been arrested.

A private funeral ceremony for O'Keefe was held on Friday.

Gray is hoping his memory and that of the latest victim will stay alive. "I say to the community at large, do not allow Mr. Mao's death to slip away from our consciousness," she pleads. "And if you saw or heard anything, please let us know." Call (416) 808-7400 if you have something police need to hear.

* Toronto Police have wasted no time in putting up a video (and text from this article) on YouTube to publicize their hunt for the killers. It's a plea in Chinese for witnesses. See it here.

To see unedited video of Gray In The Raw, click here.

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