Canada

Death at a burger joint

On a soft summer night, a family's dreams are shattered by a shotgun blast

John Nicol July 12 1999
Canada

Death at a burger joint

On a soft summer night, a family's dreams are shattered by a shotgun blast

John Nicol July 12 1999

Death at a burger joint

On a soft summer night, a family's dreams are shattered by a shotgun blast

In the early morning of June 28, the blacktop of a suburban Toronto plaza echoed with the screech of car tires, competing stereos and the chattering end-of-school voices of the city’s youth. At 3 a.m., the all-night Burger King is a popular hangout: it’s a place to be seen, to lean against a car and let the night air cool overheated bodies from overcrowded dance floors. For Sandy Ebrahim, three days shy of her 17th birthday, this ritual of adolescence was new. The Mississauga teen, who sang in the church choir and was a dutiful daughter of strict Coptic orthodox parents, had never been out this late, never ¡ been to this plaza on the other side of J Toronto and, for that matter, didn’t get I into the dance club she and her four | friends had gone to when they were supposed to be at a sleepover.

A modest adventure. But it went disastrously wrong when two men pulled up in a stolen black Lincoln Navigator and the passenger, his face partially covered, fired two shotgun blasts at the silver Audi that Sandy was leaning J against. The other girls escaped injury, but Sandy, shot in the back, was pronounced dead on arrival at Markham Stoufiville Hospital. Police, still searching for a motive at week’s end, believed Ebrahim, who was to leave last week with her mother and seven-year-old brother for a summer in Egypt visiting family, was not the intended victim. “It would appear they were targeting someone,” said York Regional Police Det. Sgt. Denis Mulholland. “Either that or we have a random drive-by shooting of an innocent victim, which certainly would scare every parent around.”

Sandy Ebrahim was a clean-cut, popular teenager, and more than a hundred schoolmates attended her funeral at the Coptic church of Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius, awkwardly and spontaneously forming a procession to leave flowers at the altar. Sandy’s father, Magdy Ebrahim, made a televised plea for the

killer to come forward. “If that guy phones me and says, ‘I'm sorry, I didn’t mean to shoot your daughter,’ I’ll forgive him,” said Ebrahim, an entrepreneur and part owner of a carpet store. But if his daughter’s killer thinks he can escape arrest, he had this warning: “God is watching you. He's going to come after you.” So are the police, though progress has been slow. The Navigator sport utility vehicle was stolen at 1:30 a.m. about three kilometres from the non-alcoholic nightclub for which Ebrahim and her friends had tickets, and found abandoned 30 minutes after the incident. The all-ages club was oversold, sending the five girls on an odyssey to a Scarborough coffee shop and then for some fast food to a shopping plaza just inside Markham. There were more than 100 young people in the plaza. Most fled

when the shotgun was fired—perhaps even, police said, the intended victim.

The shooting capped a series of tragic incidents involving Canadian teenagers. On June 27, five Ottawa-area teens lost their lives in a fiery early-morning car accident when their four-car convoy, containing 14 boys, collided with a pickup truck and trailer near Perth; a week before, a 16-year-old Beaverlodge, Alta., student was killed during a 4 a.m. joyride on the property of environmental activist Wiebo Ludwig. The Mounties in Grande Prairie have completed their search of Ludwig’s property, but have laid no charges.

In the Ebrahim case, Sandy’s best friend, whose family asked that her name not be used, told Macleans that she can’t steel herself to talk about what happened that night. “I just have every emotion going through me,” the 16year-old said. “Nothing in the world feels safe anymore.”

John Nicol

Susan Oh