Canada

Water Worlds

John Geddes July 26 1999
Canada

Water Worlds

John Geddes July 26 1999

Terror on the 401

Toronto is shaken by the shooting of a policeman

Canada

Retired elementary schoolteacher Fraser Hambly, one of Canadas top fivepin bowlers, was in his 1994 Firebird, on his way to play golf with his bowling buddies. Mohammad Nematian-Zaroor, who immigrated to Toronto from Iran in 1991, was delivering a package in his taxi. Just before noon last Wednesday, they came to the rescue of an out-of-control police car in the collector lanes of Highway 401, Toronto’s 16-lane eastwest artery, sandwiching it and forcing it to a stop. Hambly and Nematian-Zaroor jumped out to find Toronto police Const. Patrick Ferdinand, a 44-year-old father of three, slumped behind the wheel with blood spurting from a quartersized hole in his cheek. He had been shot while trying to pull over a van he believed was being driven by suspects in a house burglary. (Police now say the burglary was committed by different suspects, and Ferdinand happened upon two men on their way to commit an armed robbery.) The suspects, who also shot at a civilian who pursued the van, are wanted for two counts of attempted murder.

Ferdinand’s shooting triggered a city-

wide manhunt involving more than 300 officers. Subway trains were stopped and disembarking passengers filed past rifletoting police. Hambly, 56, and Nematian-Zaroor, 37, were hailed in the media as “Good Samaritans.” Ferdinand, after doctors removed bullet fragments that missed a critical artery by a centimetre, could be left with permanent damage to his jaw but is otherwise expected to recover frilly. The prognosis for Toronto, though, may not be so positive.

It was the area’s sixth crime involving gunplay within the past month and the city’s first police shooting since August, 1998—leaving an already shocked citizenry reeling. On the same day Ferdinand was shot, a 20-year-old Scarborough man was threatened by a driver and had three shots fired at him; in another incident, a dispute over a woman led to a 34-year-old man receiving a blast from a sawed-off shotgun in the upper thigh. On July 11, a father buying ice cream at a McDonald’s drivethrough was shot in the leg by young men whose car blocked his way. On June 28, a 16-year-old girl was killed by

a shotgun blast in the parking lot of a Burger King just north of the city. And on June 26, two men were injured and a third man was killed when shots were fired into their moving car from another vehicle in the city’s east end.

Last week, Mayor Mel Lastman went so far as to call on Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to ban guns from urban centres. Others, though, urged people not to lose perspective. “Whenever there’s a I spate of shootings, people start to panic I about the streets going to hell,” said I Wendy Cukier, head of the Coalition I for Gun Control. “But Toronto remains I the safest city of its size in North Amer| ica. You’re more at risk from guns in rural Alberta and New Brunswick than in Toronto. What’s frightening about these recent incidents is they seem random.” The police, meanwhile, criticized Lastmans comments, wondering how a gun ban could be enforced.

Chief David Boothby offered a solution of his own: increasing the mandatory sentence for people using a gun while committing a crime to 10 years (at

the moment, illegal use of a firearm automatically adds at least one year to a jail term). He also vowed that Ferdinand’s assailants, described as a white male with a small ponytail and a light-skinned black male, both in their 20s, would be captured. Nematian-Zaroor, who has helped police in other instances, shared Boothby’s anger. “It doesn’t matter what the colour of skin was,” said the cab driver. “If someone is doing a crime like this, they don’t deserve to live in this society.”

John Nicol