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Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Gangsters, goris and 10 cups of coffee: Life among the Dixon City Bloods | Toronto Star
Anthony Smith is lying on the pavement, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head.
It’s the early morning of March 28, 2013, and Smith, nicknamed Bucks, has been murdered during a brawl outside Loki Lounge, a busy King St. W. nightclub. He has been gunned down by a young man from a rival group, an act of violence powered by a toxic mix of rage, neighbourhood warfare, cough syrup and alcohol.
As news of Bucks’ killing spreads, not everyone is shocked.
Ayanle Omar (Fatboy) is on the phone mouthing off about his friend’s fatal mistake.
“If you’re not f---ing about this life, get out of the kitchen, bro. I’m ready to die any day, bro,” he tells an unidentified woman.
“You guys wanna go to the club with no ‘gori,’ it’s their fault,” Omar says, referring to Smith and the crew he was with that night, and using a term cops believe to be slang for gun.
What Omar, 21, doesn’t know is that his conversation is being recorded. It is one of thousands intercepted over three months last year during an investigation targeting the Dixon City Bloods that police dubbedProject Traveller. That project led to a spinoff,Project Brazen 2, the continuing investigation into MayorRob Fordand others.
The information in this story about Project Traveller comes from search warrant documents containing portions of the actual wiretaps and summaries of those taps that have been released to the Star and other media after a legal challenge. The allegations in the police documents have not been tested in court.
For three months last year, authorities logged and listened in real time to dozens of phones, at times getting the inside track on who was dating or breaking up with whom. While the wiretaps are best known for picking up chatter about Ford and his dealings with alleged gang members, including their attempts to peddle a video of the mayor smoking crack cocaine, they also picked up disturbing conversations, such as the one mentioned above, indicating the gang was preparing to arm itself in the wake of Smith’s death. Police listening in, with the help of interpreters, had to contend with street slang.
“I’m not going to lie to you, bro. I’m bring at least ‘shun gori’ to the dot right now for the mandem,” Omar says to the woman. Translating words from Somali, police say they believe he is going to bring five guns to Toronto for members of the gang.
Omar then talks to someone in the background: “My dope is the best dope … I’ll give you two chops right now.”
Toronto police allege the Dixon City Bloods trafficked drugs and ran gunsthrough a pipelinethat began in the United States, crossed the border at Windsor and ended in Toronto. In a city where young people are increasingly being charged with gun crimes or themselves being gunned down, and where two to three “crime guns” are recovered each day, the Project Traveller case offers a rare glimpse at how a gang operated on city streets and how the police built their case against them.
In the beginning
The roots of Project Traveller emerged just before dawn on June 7, 2009, on the polished stone floor in the lobby of 340 Dixon Rd., one of six highrise apartment buildings filled with families near Islington Ave. and Hwy. 401. The enclave is nicknamed Dixon City.
Police officers responding to a 911 call found 16-year-old Ayoob Aden in a pool of blood, dead from stab wounds to the stomach. Two other young men had also been stabbed, one in the arm, another in the back.
Aden, a baby-faced high school student whose mother had already lost a son and husband to violence in Somalia, found himself in the middle of a fight, a confidential informant would later tell police. Aden, the informant said, was a casualty of a larger dispute between the younger and older ranks of the Dixon City Bloods.
Over the next few years, the violence continued, as a shifting cast of characters fought with one another and fended off rival neighbourhoods.
The hundreds of pages of police documents highlight a series of incidents that are indicative of a neighbourhood under siege. They include security footage of young men firing guns at one another outside buildings; pistols being shot into the air; live rounds and shell casings recovered from parking lots; and a bullet pulled from an air conditioning vent. Some of the violence appears to be the result of sheer carelessness, like a hospital visit necessitated by an apparently self-inflicted bullet wound to the leg.
In the summer of 2010, officers stopped at a red light heard up to 10 gunshots. A witness would tell them a group was hanging out beside a daycare facility in Dixon City when three men — not from the neighbourhood — walked up, started shooting, then fled in a nearby car.
Anthony Smith (Bucks) was among those targeted, police believe. So was his friend Liban Siyad, nicknamed Gully (who would later become an alleged victim of extortion by Ford friend Alexander (Sandro) Lisi).
A year later, in March 2011, there was another murder. Abdikadir Khan, 24, was executed, shot in the head in a stairwell in a Dixon City highrise. Khan was one of two men stabbed the night Aden was killed in 2009. He lay there for 11 hours before anyone called 911. A jacket found at the scene was embroidered with the phrase “Dead men tell no tales.” A confidential informant told the cops Khan was killed because of the ongoing feud between younger and older ranks in the gang.
In Dixon, the internal gang conflict was morphing. Some of the “older heads” were moving on. Guys grew up, had families and wanted out of the game. Others moved to Alberta. Some were dead, got arrested or moved their business out of town.
New names started popping up as the Toronto police gangs and guns squad quietly started directing resources toward the area.
Ahmed Farah, nicknamed Sleepy (the brother of the man who would later try to broker a deal for the Ford crack video with the Toronto Star and Gawker), was arrested at a motel in Windsor. Court documents say police found crack cocaine “hidden in his buttocks.”
Security cameras outside a café on Lawrence Ave. W. captured Mubarak Rirash, nicknamed Franchise, being shot in the leg by another man who took off on foot.
By fall, a security void had opened in Dixon City. The private security guards who had manned one side of the buildings (320, 330 and 340 Dixon Rd.) were rarely seen. Police weren’t able to enter the complex without violating trespass laws, unless they were called, according to the police documents.
Some of the younger guys, called “goonies,” were actively dealing crack cocaine in the neighbourhood, one informant said. Liban Siyad (Gully), 22, and Ayanle Omar (Fatboy), 21, who was quoted at the beginning of this story, were among them, the informant said, adding that Omar had purchased a gun.
Guns were being brought up from Windsor because the border is so easy to cross, said another informant, adding: “Everyone seems to have one.”
Investigators cultivated at least 10 confidential informants. None agreed to testify in court because of fears for their safety, but the information they provided helped police home in on various players.
Mubarak Rirash (Franchise), who has a tattoo on his left hand that says “loyalty” beside a five-point crown (a gang symbol), was considered a “gun man,” according to one of the informants.
Rirash, who the police documents allege has a troubling history of violence, including an accusation that he punched his sister in the face and then pulled a knife on her, spent a lot of time with Mohamed Siad.
Siad, nicknamed Soya, is the man who shot the Ford crack video at a bungalow known as a crack house just north of Dixon City, aStar investigationrevealed last year. Siad, an informant said, was dealing crack cocaine and hanging out in a Dixon City parking lot where people get drunk and shoot their guns “as a salute.” He and others, an informant told police, were storing guns in lockers and feuding with guys at Ardwick, a public housing complex near Finch Ave. W. and Islington Ave. They also had an ongoing beef with members of the Jamestown gang over guns stolen from their mothers’ cars.
Towards the end of 2012, police got their hands on a cellphone belonging to a young man from Dixon arrested for firearm possession.
On the device, they found photographs of females pointing what appear to be guns at the camera and dollar bills splayed out on tables, court documents say. There are messages indicative of “ounce level cocaine transactions.”
“I’ll give you whops on Ur 4.5 if we grab a 9 today,” reads one. Police translate this to mean the phone’s user was offering to find a buyer for 4.5 ounces of cocaine if there was an agreement to buy nine ounces together.
The most fruitful treasure the phone provided, though, was the cellphone numbers of the alleged Dixon City Blood members police were already looking at. The cops asked for permission from a judge to listen in on their conversations.
The wiretap project
There have been about 10 major street gang wiretap projects in Toronto since 2004. Some yield better evidence than others. When it came to Project Traveller, lawyers and police were in agreement: even if you ignored the sideshow that flowed from the gang’s involvement with Toronto’s mayor (much of which has already been made public), dramatic events were playing out.
The wiretaps began on March 18, 2013, a month after Siad filmed the crack video. Within two weeks, according to the police document, the taps were giving police a glimpse of a gun pipeline between Windsor and Toronto. They’d eventually glean that guns were allegedly coming across the border in the bumpers of the cars of unsuspecting Ontarians, then being traced with a GPS tracker for surreptitious pickups.
Ayanle Omar (Fatboy) was then staying in Windsor. On March 25, he was heard talking about “girls that came in” and saying he planned to head to Toronto within days with two “big tings.” Police say they believe he was talking about guns.
Three days later, Smith was gunned down.
A few days after that, a police surveillance team followed two other men from Dixon as they drove the 401 east from Windsor to Toronto. Officers watched as the men, seemingly anxious that they were being followed, crashed a rented Chrysler through the garage door at one of the buildings in Dixon City. Police searched the car soon after and found three guns, according to the police documents, which also note investigators believe these guns were the ones Omar had sent in the wake of Smith’s death.
(There’s no evidence to suggest there was ever any retribution for Smith’s killing. Much was made of a possible connection between his death and the Ford crack scandal, particularly after the mayor’s former logistics director, David Price, raised the possibility. But the Star has found no evidence to suggest the rumours are true, or that Smith’s death was caused by anything but a “street level” feud. One man from a rival neighbourhood, nicknamed Postman, who appears to have sparked the fight, has fled to Somalia, a source said. The shooter, Nisar Hashimi, is in jail, having pleaded guilty to manslaughter.)
On April 9, 2013, surveillance footage at Windsor’s Rack N’ Roll bar captured Mohamed Siad (Soya) greeting a man named Lamar Porter.
Porter, a 28-year-old who recently spent time in jail for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home and shooting a man in the scrotum with a pellet gun, according to a Windsor Star article, is not from Dixon, nor is he an alleged member of the gang. He was, according to police, one of the gang’s main gun suppliers.
“The 9s and stuff like that, Spike Lee the new 40s edition,” Siad can be heard asking Porter in one phone call, according to the search warrant documents.
“You mean the extra laces for it? Taking laces or the shoes themselves?” Porter responds.
Police say they believe Siad is looking to buy 9-mm and .40-calibre guns and that Porter is asking him about ammunition.
One call picked up after the Rack N’ Roll meeting revealed Porter sold Siad and a friend a .44-calibre Taurus revolver, according to the court documents.
Police allege Siad used a 24-year-old female student, Naimo Warsame, as a courier to transport that same weapon on a bus back to Toronto.
“Which one of you f---ers are going to give me my change for actually doing this trip,” Warsame asks Siad in one call.
“Don’t worry, I’ll get you your change, you f---ing d---head,” Siad replies.
Weeks later, police raided Warsame’s apartment and seized the Taurus they believe she transported on the bus from Windsor, along with two assault rifles.
The apartment raid, oddly, caused an interesting rift within the gang.
The cops busted through Warsame’s door around the same time Siad was picked up in Peel Region on a drug possession charge (those charges have been dropped.)
Some of the alleged gang members thought Siad had snitched on Warsame, according to police documents. Siad’s perceived untrustworthiness didn’t bode well for him weeks later, when news of the crack video broke and Liban Siyad (Gully) started getting threatening phone calls from Sandro Lisi because he’d dealt with him weeks earlier, when Ford’s cellphone went missing.
The guys in Dixon blamed Siad for bringing “heat” down on their neighbourhood, several sources have told the Star. “That guy’s an idiot,” said one.
The local drug trade
In addition to the guns, the wiretaps picked up chatter police believe is indicative of a local drug trade.
To describe the process of cooking powder cocaine into crack cocaine: “Chef up.”
Discussions about what was available for purchase: “four half B’s and eight forty wops,” which police interpret as four half-balls and eight packages of cocaine worth $40.
Code for heroin and cocaine: “Ten cups of coffee and white tea.”
One drug deal allegedly involved a Tim Hortons coffee cup handed over at a local Walmart. Police believe the cup contained a sample of cocaine.
It will be up to prosecutors to prove in a court of law, and beyond a reasonable doubt, that the alleged members of the Dixon City Bloods were actually talking about drugs — or guns for that matter — on some of those thousands of calls.
The family members and friends of the accused swear their loved ones are innocent.
Nura Hersi, 22, married Mohamed Siad (Soya) just a few weeks before he was arrested in the Project Traveller raids. In a recent conversation with the Star, she suggested her husband had been charged because he has the same name as another man.
About two weeks after Anthony Smith’s death, Ayanle Omar was discussing a gangster’s life in a phone call with a woman.
“Five n-----s” were “going down” for Smith’s death, he said, according to a summary of a call in the police documents.
He talked about heading to Alberta before the summer ended with five “habuts” (yet another word police believe means guns) and four “bricks” (a word police interpret to mean kilograms).
He planned to take all his money out of his account and worried that he was “too hot.”
He was sleeping with a “gori” in his room.
“If the door kicks in, I have to worry about my own s---,” he said to the woman.
A few weeks after that, police allege Omar stabbed another man during a fight.
A month later, on June 14, 2013, the doors of all the accused were kicked in, with police in riot gear using battering rams and flash bangs. Roughly 50 people arrested in the Project Traveller raids. About half are out on bail. The rest, including the players mentioned in this story, remain behind bars awaiting their day in court.
With files from Tim Alamenciak and Michelle Shephard