Another Murder in Riverdale

Murder in Riverdale for the Toronto Sun

Riverdale residents were feeling more than a little uneasy a day after father of two Hou Chang Mao was killed by a stray bullet at an east Chinatown supermarket.
While it appeared business had returned to normal today, many out and about on Gerrard St. E. were thinking about the grim reality that if a 47-year-old grocer can be gunned down while stacking oranges then nobody is safe.
“It can happen anywhere and at any time of day,” Phillip Chung said as he left the bustling Fu Yao Supermarket, a block east of Broadview Ave.
Chung said he shops at the grocery store a couple of times a week and he couldn’t help but think it could just as easily have been him who was killed Thursday.
“Are you taking a chance now just being out on the street?” the 52-year-old wondered.
Mao, an employee at the supermarket, was working at the produce bins on the crowded sidewalk when Toronto Police say a running gun battle erupted across the street just after 6 p.m. The newcomer to Canada was the only one shot. Mao was hit in the stomach and died soon after.
Those working in the busy neighbourhood watched the horror unfold from their shops and could barely believe what was happening as terrified people ran for their lives.
“I heard bang, bang, bang, bang,” said a young woman who was working at a furniture store and did not want her name used. “I knew right away that it was gun shots.”

When the block along Gerrard St. E. — from Broadview to Boulton Aves. — was re-opened late this morning, Mao’s work gloves still lay on a blood-stained matt at the store entrance. And baskets of groceries lay in the aisles, hastily dropped by shoppers.
The owner of the market and his staff refused to talk about the city’s third murder of the year as they opened the store and customers began to trickle back inside.
Mao lived with his children — his daughter Yun Yam, 18, and son Zuo Xi, 23 — near Gerrard and Pape Aves.
“They’re shattered,” Homicide Det.-Sgt Pauline Gray said, adding the daughter just joined her dad and brother in Canada a couple months ago.
Gray said police have surveillance video from the area and it’s only a matter of time until the gunmen are identified.
“I’ve got you on camera. Somewhere, somehow, in the hundreds of hours (of video) we’re about to look at, we’ll find you,” she said.
Police are looking for two black men seen fleeing in a silver car with a shiny, silver, round grill. They believe the pair are either witnesses or were the targets.
Mao is the second innocent bystander to be slain by a stray bullet in less than a week. John O’Keefe, 42, was killed last Saturday on Yonge St.
Owners of neighbouring businesses remembered Mao as a hard-working man who recently helped hang decorative banners along Gerrard St. E. for the holiday season.
“Everyone knew him, he was a very nice guy,” said bookstore owner William Chiu.
He and other area businessmen are concerned the violence could damage east Chinatown’s reputation.
“I don’t want people to think this is a bad community,” said Chiu. “This is a wonderful community.”
Mayor David Miller and other local politicians visited the neighbourhood and urged others to do the same, pointing out the grocer’s death was an isolated incident and that Riverdale is one of the safest areas of the city.
But at least one longtime area resident disagreed.
“I think they are all in denial,” Deborah Lamb, 53, said. “We have a great neighbourhood. But people shouldn’t keep saying that we should just carry on, that everyone should come to (east) Chinatown and Riverdale, that everything is fine.”
She pointed out Eric Boateng, 21, was gunned down Oct. 21 after visiting a friend at the Don Jail. And an 18-year-old was shot by police in Riverdale Park on Halloween.
“I think it’s time people woke up and realized the extent of what’s happening here,” Lamb said.
— With files by Tom Godfrey and Rob Lamberti


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