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Massive police raid launched in Toronto

Police launched massive predawn raid targeting guns and drugs Thursday, focusing on the Toronto neighbourhood that’s ground zero for the Rob Ford crack video scandal.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Rexdale home of one of the young men pictured with Mayor Rob Ford outside a suspected crack house was part of a massive multi-city police sweep early Thursday.

One police cruiser and two grey police identification vans pulled up outside Muhammad Khattak's home on Mercury Rd., a 10-minute drive northwest of the Dixon Rd. apartments.

Five officers left the home around 7:30 a.m. One officer carried a file-folder-type brown box and others carried clear plastic evidence bags. One bag appeared to hold a Toshiba laptop.

Lights went out and the door clicked shut as the Star approached the Khattak front door. No one replied to questions that were asked through holes in broken glass panes.

Star photographer Rick Madonik’s telephoto lens picked up police leaving with a handwritten inventory of cellphones confiscated during the raid.

One of the officers said “no comment” when asked if Khattak was in custody.

The raid on Khattak’s house was part of a multi-city operation targeting guns and drugs in Toronto that police unleashed just before dawn.

Police said they executed about 30 arrest warrants across Greater Toronto.

The sweep, involving Toronto Police, the OPP, Peel and Halton Regional police and other forces, concentrated on a north Etobicoke neighbourhood that is ground zero for the Rob Ford crack video scandal.

Police in Windsor also arrested several people, officers there said.

Two rival gangs involved in allegedly running drugs and guns are the target.

Project Traveller, the code name for the investigation, has involved months of surveillance by officers from a task force put together to slow or stop the flow of guns into the GTA.

Two Star reporters independently viewed the video three times while sitting in a parking lot at the apartment complex that is involved in the raids.

On Thursday, Ford left his house at 8:45 a.m. and walked quickly to his car.

Asked about the raids, he said, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

He said he hadn’t spoken to police about the raids and had no response to a question of whether he would be at Police Chief Bill Blair’s noon news conference.

“The cable was out last night,” Ford said later at City Hall. “I know as much as you do. So I've heard it on the radio coming in.

“I haven’t talked to the chief. I don’t have any other information.”

Asked if he was part of the investigation, he said, “They can investigate all they want. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Police Sgt. Chris Laush told residents outside 320 Dixon, “This has nothing to do with Rob Ford.”

Police arrested Munir Kassim around 6:10 outside a nearby coffee shop. He hadn’t been home at 390 Dixon Rd. when officers arrived, although he told the Star he was under house arrest.

Instead, he arrived home midway through the raid, his shirt wet from rain.

As officers put him in the cruiser, he yelled, “All this for breach of probation?”

Police who arrested Kassim also confiscated the cellphones of all of his immediate family members.

“They said they wanted the phones of anyone who had contact with Munir,” said the woman who would only identify herself as Munir's mother.

Police used a battering ram to open their door around 5 a.m., leaving a crescent-moon crater on the door.

Munir's mother said he spent most of his adolescence in Egypt, travelling there at the start of high school and returning in December 2012.

“He was a wonderful kid. He wasn't even in Canada for the past three years. He just came back. I took him away from this country. I moved myself to Egypt.”

She said Munir, 20, didn't complete high school in Canada but was working towards his general equivalency diploma (GED).

“I don't know what's going on. I don't know what's happening. We never had any police problems before with him,” she said.

“Of course I'm scared. They kicked in my door. This has never happened in my life.”

She said her husband and son sat handcuffed with the family in the living room for an hour and a half while police scoured the apartment. Her 4-year-old and 2½-year-old wailed.

“It's like a nightmare. You're dreaming and the door just. . . ” she stopped abruptly and hit the crescent cut into her door by the police battering ram.

By 8 a.m, Dixon Rd. residents were starting to leave for work and the police presence had dropped to just a few cruisers. 

On the second floor of 320 Dixon, Albert Chaundry sat on his couch and wept. Bits of wood were scattered across his floor and a giant burn mark scorched his kitchen floor from the police “flash bang,” which officers use to disorient people during a raid.

“It's very humiliating to me. I'm not a gangster,” he said. “This is like killing a person for nothing.”

Police handcuffed Chaundry and held him for around two hours, he said.

The 64-year-old was asleep when police smashed down his door around 5 a.m. They were looking for item's belonging to his nephew, who he said is in jail for drug offences.

This is the second time Chaundry's unit has been raided because of his nephew.

The search warrant said police were looking for items associated with “Dixon City Bloods, Dixon Crew or Dixon Blood City.”

Police were looking for cellphones, telephone records, video and audio recordings, among other items, according to the document.

At least five units in 320 were raided by police.

On the 21st floor of 320 Dixon, unit 2102's door knob dangled from the frame. The wood along the side of the door was splintered. 

A woman who identified herself as Sarah was inside 2102.

“Madina is my cousin. She's an excellent mother,” said the young woman, referring to Madina Gasla, who had been arrested. “This whole thing is nuts.”

Two sets of plastic handcuffs lay on the carpet in front of apartment 1201, which also had a broken door lock.

A woman who answered the door said: “What happened happened and I don't want to talk about it.”

A woman wearing a striped shirt and sweatpants who said her name was Madina had earlier sat in the back of a police car saying, “They’re arresting people for nothing! For f------ nothing!”

Amber Gasla said police broke down her door and that of her aunt, Madina Gasla, and took her into custody.

“That's like my mother. That's like my best friend. They went to her house and she was handcuffed,” said Amber.

Akbar Maghsoudi, 75, lives next door to one of the raided apartments. 

When he got up as usual to feed stray cats outside, he said there was “a gun pointed at me.” Officers ordered him back inside.

The hallway was filled with police officers, “10 or 15 of them,” he said.

Maghsoudi said he has lived in 320 Dixon for 30 years. He said he doesn't know his neighbours well, but they get along. 

“I don't interfere. Everyone has visitors. That's not my business.”

Police broke the door of unit 1815 at 390 Dixon Rd. clean in half in the pre-dawn raid and arrested 22-year-old Abdullah Haroon, said a woman who identified herself only as his mother.

“We have no idea (why he was arrested),” said a woman who declined to give her name but said she was Haroon's sister.

Police told them to speak to their landlord about the door.

“They didn't say anything else,” said Haroon's sister, who also said police didn’t remove anything from the apartment.

Shortly before 5 a.m., a flotilla of 50 police vehicles, including big black SUVs and Budget rental trucks, had sped along Dixon Rd. and into the parking lots of six condominium towers.

As they swung into the entrance of 390 Dixon Rd., three panel vans already had their doors opened before the vehicles stopped.

After about 10 minutes, one van reappeared to pick up the officers and their gear, including what appeared to be battering rams.

Shortly after, two more vans picked up police in the same fashion.

By 5:55 a.m. police had walked one young man, wearing sweatpants, a T-shirt and loafers, his hands cuffed behind his back, to a waiting squad car.

A man in a green jacket and a woman wearing a hijab were both led by police from 330 Dixon Rd. into custody. Police also removed a bag of evidence from that building.

Many residents leaving for the morning said they didn’t hear anything. One woman who lives on the fourth floor said she awoke to loud noises.

“I just heard banging, banging, banging. A man was screaming.”

One resident of 320 Dixon Rd. was startled awake by banging sounds and looked into the courtyard to see police officers in tactical gear flooding into the building. Behind them, detectives in plain clothes carried empty bankers’ boxes.

Sgt. Matthew D'Asti confirmed Windsor police were assisting Toronto police in the Windsor area Thursday morning, executing several search warrants “targeting guns and drugs.”

Barrie Police’s tactical unit was in Toronto Wednesday night to assist Toronto Police with the raids and was back in Barrie by 9 a.m. Thursday.

Halton, Peel and the OPP confirmed that their officers were part of Project Traveller.

“We provided some assistance to Toronto,” said Halton Sgt. Dave Cross

Sgt. Pierre Chamberland said the OPP is also assisting in Windsor and Toronto with their organized crime enforcement bureau and tactical rescue (SWAT) units.

“There were Peel police officers that were assisting Toronto,” said Const. Lilly Fitzpatrick. “Toronto is the lead on this.”

Const. Chris Stumpf said London police also sent tactical units to aid Toronto police in early morning raids.

Source: Toronto Star


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