'He just wanted to be a role model': family mourns slain Toronto teacher
In life, he became a teacher, mentor and role model. In death, Abshir Hassan would become Toronto's 23rd homicide victim of the year.
The 31-year-old Flemington Park resident was one of three people shot outside his low-rise apartment building early Tuesday morning.
According to his family and police, it appears Hassan had just run outside to move his car so he wouldn't get a ticket when gunfire erupted.
"It's shocking; it really happened within a few minutes that he came out from the house," Hassan's uncle, Hassan Aden, said Tuesday outside his family's home north of Toronto.
The gunfire rang out just after midnight.
According to police, a 22-year-old man and his 18-year-old girlfriend were drinking outside 11 Flemington Rd., near Lawrence Ave. and Allen Rd., when a shooter or shooters pulled up in a vehicle.
Hassan ran outside from his apartment and moments later, several gunshots rang out.
Shell casings found at the scene suggest there was more than one shooter.
"It was horrible when we heard the news. We all rushed to the Sunnybrook and he was really … laying down and we couldn't believe the state he was in," Aden said. "The doctors told us, you know, this is something that we cannot save and it was a shock to all of us."
Hassan died at about 7:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.
Hassan moved to Toronto as a child with his parents, fleeing war-torn Somalia as refugees.
He grew up in the very community where he was shot.
According to his cousin, growing up in the troubled community inspired Hassan to make a difference for local youth.
He earned an undergraduate degree in psychology from York University, before studying to become a teacher. According to his family, he was working on his PhD when he was killed, having written several papers on youth dropping out of school before graduation.
"He has been a role model for a lot of people and this is really something that unexpectedly happened to us," Aden said. "He was well-known in the community, he was active in the community, he wanted to help the youth in trouble and he just wanted to educate himself and others, too. And he wanted to pass the education to the youth ... He just wanted to be a role model and to be a good citizen."
Hassan is survived by his parents, three younger brothers and a younger sister, all of whom live north of Toronto. He is also survived by an older brother in Somalia.
As of late Tuesday afternoon, police were struggling to find a motive for the shooting.
Det. Sgt. Steve Ryan said he is not ruling out the possibility that one or all of the victims were not the intended targets.
Investigators spent part of the day scouring through video surveillance hoping to catch a shot of the killer or killers.
Area residents identified the man who survived the shooting as a disc jockey known as "Wacky." He, too, lived in the building where the shooting took place. His girlfriend was also well-known to local residents.
Residents were reluctant to speak on camera Tuesday, but expressed frustration over violence in their neighbourhood -- a neighbourhood that has seen much violence in the past, but less in recent years.
"This was a very brazen and cowardly act to a community that has made great strides in the last few years to bring a sense of calm and safety to the area," Toronto Police Insp. Tim Crone told reporters Tuesday morning. "What we're hoping for is to speak with anyone, any of the residents who may have any information whatsoever."
Hassan's family implored the community to help.
"Help the police to resolve this issue and whoever did this has to come forward," Aden said. "It's shocking for all the community and all society, particularly to our family, so please if somebody knows someone, come forward and contact the police as soon as possible."
Anyone with information is asked to call the Toronto Police Homicide Squad at 416-808-7400. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 416-222-8477, visiting 222tips.com, or by texting TOR and a tip to CRIMES.