By Raf Brusilow
Last week’s double-shooting near George Brown College turned a lot of heads at Ryerson, not because such violent acts are surprising in Toronto’s downtown core, but because every new occurrence drudges up a haunting truth: Ryerson is only as safe as its surrounding area allows it to be.
This week, Raf Brusilow looks into the past to construct a picture of Ryerson as a campus caught in the tumult of big city violence. While these selected examples of recent crimes don’t comprise a complete list, they do speak volumes to Ryerson’s place among the gritty downtown streets.
1) Burger joint execution
Sunday, Dec. 19, 2004
A few minutes past 3 a.m., 25-year-old Glen Albert Collington opened the door to the Mr. Tasty Burgers restaurant on Church Street just north of Gerrard Street and stepped in. It was a harsh, cold night; Toronto Hostel Services had already issued its first extreme cold warning of the winter and was advising the homeless to seek shelter that night. About 15 people were inside the restaurant, there to ease grumbling stomachs, or to escape the biting cold.
Collington walked up to the counter, ordered fries and a soft drink, and sat down near the doorway to have his meal. At 3:20 p.m., the door opened behind him and a gunman stepped in. Collington did not turn around to look. The gunman fired one bullet into the back of Collington’s head, execution-style, and rushed out the door. Police interviewed patrons who were in the restaurant at the time of the shooting but have made no arrests yet. Police suspect the killing was gang- or drug-related.
2) Coffee-shop double-shooting
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
At 8:45 p.m., four men were standing near the driver’s side window of a dark, mid-sized car with tinted windows that was parked across the street from Tim Hortons on Victoria Street. One man, Jerry Bugyei-Twun, 23, was chatting with another man through the open driver’s side window.
According to witnesses, the talk quickly became an argument. A man inside the car reached over and rapidly fired four shots from what witnesses described as an uzi-like weapon. The first shot hit Bugyei-Twun in the torso; the second bullet hit him in the chest, stopping his heart. Foaming at the lips, Bugyei-Twun staggered across the road and collapsed in a snow bank outside Second Cup. The killer and driver sped away in the car and raced northwards up Yonge Street.
Bugyei-Twun’s friend, 19-year-old Andre Francis, was also shot twice but survived by hobbling several blocks to St. Michael’s Hospital, where he was treated for his wounds. The other two men standing with Bugyei-Twun fled into the Dundas subway station after the shooting. The killer has not been caught.
3) “Senseless” subway pushing
Friday, Sept. 26, 1997
Herbert Cheung, 42, hated women. His reasons, cryptic and feeble, could be boiled down to two things: a prior sexual operation gone very wrong, and poor relations with his own mother throughout his life.
Cheung was also a paranoid schizophrenic who abused drugs and had a history of violence. At one time he stole a woman’s purse to pay back drug dealers. He had spent a lot of time thinking about killing someone, “weighing the pros and cons” in his mind, he said.
On the morning of Sept. 26, Cheung had become frustrated because of a lineup at the public trustee’s office, where he had been waiting to get money. Fuming, he entered the Dundas subway station looking for someone to “get back” for his inconvenience. He mulled his options for 17 minutes.
After two trains had passed, Cheung spotted Charlene Minkowsi, a 23-year-old University of Toronto student returning from the law firm of Baker and McKenzie, where she worked as a law clerk. She had no reason to be a target, except that in Cheung’s twisted mind she was a convenient scapegoat for his own misogyny.
Minkowski was in a rush to get home and stood near the platform’s edge. As the train pulled into the station, Cheung pushed Minkowski into the train’s path, gravely injuring her. Station cameras recorded the incident. Minkowski was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital, but died nine hours later.
Cheung pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison, with no parole for 10 years. Other incidents from the past affected Ryerson directly, though luckily ended without bloodshed:
4) CKLN under siege
Saturday, Jan. 1, 2000
Chalk this one up to the realm of the bizarre. In the early afternoon, DJ X of CKLN, the local station that broadcasts from Ryerson, was hosting his hip-hop show, The Power Move, when three men barged into the station’s studio in the basement of the POD building. They demanded DJ X play a CD by rapper Richard Glen Brown, who had just been killed by a gunshot wound to the head at the Connections 2 nightclub near Dufferin Street and Finch Avenue three days earlier.
When DJ X refused, one of the men pulled out a black handgun, tapped the butt of the handle menacingly on a desk and told DJ X to play the CD or he’d “deal with it.” Another intruder sat at the microphone to broadcast an anti-violence message, which included an emotional dedication to the people who were shot at the club on the same night of Brown’s death. Security responded quickly after a call from CKLN staff, but was unaware at the time of the physical threats to DJ X.
Guards escorted the men outside without incident, but only found out 15 minutes later that the men had been armed.
5) Stabbed, dragged and left to die
Monday, Oct. 27, 1986
It was after sundown, and Jeffrey Gorse, 25, was walking north towards Gerrard Street on Victoria Laneway. Two men attacked Gorse, trying to get his wallet. One of the men pulled out a knife, and stabbed Gorse deep in the chest, puncturing one of Gorse’s lungs. The men then dragged Gorse into Jorgenson Hall, leaving him lying in a pool of his own blood near the men’s bathroom.
After searching his body for money, they escaped out to the street. An anonymous phone call to Ryerson security saved Gorse’s life when he was rushed to Toronto General Hospital. Gorse, a Richmond Hill native, was not a Ryerson student at the time of the attack. The men were never caught.
6) Jorgenson holdup
Monday, Sept. 24, 1979
In a daring, pre-planned raid, two men brandishing revolvers and wearing nylon stockings as masks ambushed a Ryerson security guard and the bookstore manager as they prepared to lock away the day’s bookstore receipts. The two men entered the building during school hours and then hid behind a partition near the vault on the 10th floor of Jorgenson Hall.
When the manager and security guard appeared at about 8:25 p.m., the gunmen ambushed them, forcing them to lie down and bound and gagged them with tape. The armed robbers escaped through a fire exit with $9,000, but luckily the two victims were able to free themselves and phone security for help.