Mark Moore’s older brother was gunned down three years ago, felled by a single bullet to the head outside a Scarborough plaza. Another brother is in prison. Their mother grabbed headlines last month when she criticized how Toronto police had executed a search warrant in her home.
But all of the family’s past troubles with the law were instantly overshadowed Wednesday, when Mr. Moore, an aspiring rapper with a criminal past, was accused of embarking on a months-long shooting rampage last year. Police allege he indiscriminately fired bullets into schoolyards, streets and a jewelry store, killing four residents in the process and wounding two more.
“If in fact he is guilty of the crimes that we allege, this is an individual who has terrorized whole communities, brought tremendous tragedy to four families and been responsible for a lot of fear,” Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said.
Mr. Moore, 27, who has been in custody since he was picked up for a nightclub shooting in March, was charged Wednesday with 54 new firearms offences, including four first-degree murders. His trail of carnage allegedly spanned the city, from west-end Toronto to Guildwood Village in the east.
The charges stem from 11 separate shooting incidents that occurred between June and November of 2010. In addition to the four fatal shootings, Mr. Moore allegedly wounded a jewelry store clerk during an armed robbery on Eglinton Avenue and unloaded multiple rounds into a 28-year-old man on Greenbrae Circuit in Scarborough, where police allege a drug-trafficking ring had been operating.
Rounding out the list were three drive-by shootings, two schoolyard shootings and a bullet fired through an apartment door on Tuxedo Court.
What is missing is a motive.
“To rationalize why he did some of the things he did — I’m at a loss, I really am,” said Detective Sergeant Hank Idsinga, noting while Mr. Moore described himself as a “gangster,” there was no evidence linking him to any specific street gang.
“You can gain notoriety as a criminal on the streets of Toronto for killing people, but if you kill people who aren’t involved in the game, you’re not going to get protected,” Det. Sgt. Idsinga said.
Mr. Moore, who was unemployed, spent his spare time trying to launch a rap career under the pseudonym “Prezidenteeh,” posting YouTube footage in which he throws piles of cash on a pool table, fans himself with a wad of bills and proudly hoists a gold-coloured necklace inscribed with the word “PREZI.” In 2001, Mr. Moore was shot in the face with an AK-47 in an apartment stairwell on Weston Road, leaving him permanently disfigured.
Mr. Moore’s arrest marks the conclusion of a lengthy probe dubbed Project Summit, which began after police this winter linked a series of homicides and shootings from the latter half of 2010. New evidence came in as recently as last week, after police appealed to the public for more information in one of the homicides.
In addition to pursuing charges against Mr. Moore, Project Summit investigators also targeted a gun-trafficking ring that allegedly supplied him with firearms and ammunition and a narcotics ring allegedly operating in the area of Greenbrae Circuit. Six others were arrested in connection with those operations.
Family members of the four homicide victims — Jahmeel Spence, 27; Courthney Facey, 18; Mike James, 23; and Carl Cole, 45 — attended a police news conference on the Moore case Wednesday morning but left quickly afterward, declining to comment. The families had only learned the news themselves an hour earlier, police confirmed.
“It’s grief enough to become a family member of a victim,” acting deputy chief Jeff McGuire said. “I’m sure it’s quite a blow today to find out that not only are you a victim, but we allege that the same person is responsible for all this other victimization.”
Investigators say Mr. Spence, who was gunned down on Greenbrae Circuit, was a victim of mistaken identity, while Mr. Cole had been involved in an unspecified dispute with Mr. Moore. Police were still seeking a second shooter in the Cole case.
As for Mr. Facey and Mr. James, who were in a street dance troupe together and had been out getting food on Weston Road the night Mr. Moore allegedly pulled up beside them and opened fire, “there’s absolutely no rhyme or reason as to why they were killed,” Det. Sgt. Idsinga said.
There is no common thread linking the rash of homicides, he said, noting police were expecting to lay more charges in the coming days against people who may have assisted Mr. Moore.
Chief Blair, who has been in policing for 35 years, could not recall another case where one individual engaged in such intense violence over such a short period of time.
“The families of the victims described [the accused] best this morning,” Det. Sgt. Idsinga said. “If these allegations are proven in court, he’s an evil man.”
Click here to view the rap video starring Mr. Moore and posted to YouTube as the work of “PREZIDENTEEH.”