'He wanted to make a difference': Community mourns youth worker killed in Regent Park triple shooting

·5 min read
Thane Murray, 27, died on Saturday night in a triple shooting in Toronto. (Toronto Police Services - image credit)
Thane Murray, 27, died on Saturday night in a triple shooting in Toronto. (Toronto Police Services - image credit)

Thane Murray was a well-known and much loved youth worker who was "always there" for the children in his community.

Now, the families the 27-year-old has helped are left mourning his "senseless" death in a triple shooting in Regent Park on Saturday night.

Murray was killed and two others were injured when four men wearing face masks opened fire on the group near Oak Street and Sumach Street shortly before 9 p.m., police say.

Three days later, Murray's friends and colleagues are still struggling to make sense of the attack. Flowers are piled high at the site where he died, along with balloons, framed pictures and candles.

An advocate for Regent Park's youth, Murray worked at several recreational facilities in Toronto and was an employee of the Regent Park Community Centre.

A vigil held there on Sunday night attracted about 300 mourners, community worker Ines Garcia told CBC News.

'He was like my brother'

Murray had worked with Garcia's children when they were younger. She said the community's youth were taking his death particularly hard.

"[One child] broke down in tears [when he heard] and said, 'He was like my brother.' Because that's how they knew him and how he worked with the kids," Garcia said.

"He was always there. Even though he was a quiet boy, he was always there for them and supported them."

Garcia said Murray was "always advocating" for youth and had recently studied to become a social worker.

She said the frequency of shootings in Regent Park has become traumatizing for the community — especially for young people.

"You never get to heal. I've been living here for 32 years and it's constantly death after death and none of us get to heal properly."

Const. Laura Brabant, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said officers arrived on the scene Saturday night to find three men suffering gunshot wounds.

One was transported to hospital with life-threatening injuries but is now stable, and another was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Murray was found with "multiple gunshot wounds" and pronounced dead at the scene.

Jeremy Cohn/CBC News
Jeremy Cohn/CBC News

Police said on Sunday there is no indication any of the three men returned fire.

The four offenders, who wore dark clothing and face masks, fled the area in a northerly direction.

Brabant said 50 shell casings were located in the area and it was "lucky many more people weren't shot."

The shooting took place near a playground and several apartment complexes.

Brabant said that while the three victims were friends, it was not clear if they knew the four suspects. It was also not known if the attack was targeted or gang-related.

She called the shooting "tragic."

"Here you have a young man who is a victim of a shooting and he was a productive member of society [...] and now his life's taken."

'Enough is enough'

Sureya Ibrahim is the founder of Mothers of Peace, a community group that helps mothers who have lost children to gun violence, which Murray was also involved with.

"A lot of people are in shock right now," Ibrahim said. "I cannot get rid of his smile and the brightness of his face. He touched a lot of young people in the community."

Ibrahim said Murray had helped her son with soccer training when he was younger and he helped other children at the recreation centre with activities such as rock climbing.

"It's those little things that make a difference. He wanted to make a difference in young people's lives," she said.

While she was "grieving and very sad," Ibrahim said she was also angry at the "senseless" nature of the attack.

"I don't know what's going on in their heads. I wish we could sit them down and ask them," she said. "If they need help, they need to reach out to get help. This needs to stop."

She called for tighter gun laws in Canada, saying: "Enough is enough. How many people's lives do we need to lose for this to stop?"

Jeremy Cohn/CBC News
Jeremy Cohn/CBC News

In a statement, the city offered its "deepest condolences" to Murray's family and friends.

"Thane was a well-regarded member of the Toronto Public Service and a much-loved community member who will be deeply missed," the statement said.

Mayor John Tory said Murray's death had "shocked many" city employees. "This is a tragedy for the Regent Park community and our entire city," he said.

City manager Chris Murray said Murray would be "deeply missed by community members and colleagues alike."

"He was much-loved in the community and was a highly-respected member of the city's recreation staff."

Residents ran from 'shooting spree'

In a string of tweets, Kristyn Wong-Tam, councillor for Ward 13 Toronto Centre, said she spent Sunday with community members in Regent Park, who were "holding so much grief."

"I spoke to residents who personally witnessed and ran from the shooting spree, others overhead gunshots while having dinner and even a senior citizen who was recovering from his own gun injuries sustained from February's mass shooting on the same street."

Wong-Tam said she was "angry about the reprehensible violence once again falling in Regent Park," questioning why more has not been done to expand youth and employment programs, fix social housing or prevent guns from "falling into the hands of indifferent and desperate people."

"When multiple gunshots are heard over the playground causing parents to throw themselves over their children to desperately protect them from random gun fire — know that none of this is acceptable."

Suze Morrison, NDP MPP for Toronto Centre, said she was "devastated" by Murray's death.

"My heart aches for his family, loved ones, and his beloved Regent Park community, including the many children and youth who he cared for, inspired, and uplifted over the years.

"So many were touched by Thane's devotion to empowering and improving the lives of children and young people in his community. He will be greatly missed."

Brabant said investigators are "combing the area," and are calling on anyone who witnessed the shooting or was in the area Saturday night to contact police.

"If you know anything, any reason why three members who resided in the community were targeted in this shooting, please come forward and speak to our investigators," she said.

She also appealed for anyone in the area with dashcam footage or people who live nearby with video surveillance on their houses to contact police.

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