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Apr 23, 2007
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Raid exposes international crime group
Police arrest a dozen alleged members of deadly Shower Posse among 80 people nabbed in sweep
Published On Tue May 04 2010

By Rosie DiManno
Toronto Star

“I ran it like a CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The only difference is that instead of litigating in a court of law, we held court in the streets.’’

Vivian Blake, the late co-founder of the Jamaican Shower Posse

Legions of cops turning over the rocks of two gun and drug street gangs in Toronto found slime traces of a notoriously lethal international crime syndicate underneath.

Project Corral — unleashed in the early-morning hours Tuesday as more than 1,000 officers fanned out across the GTA, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Windsor — nailed a dozen alleged members of the deadly Shower Posse among the nearly 80 individuals arrested by late afternoon.

The suspected Shower Posse contingent is being portrayed as the cream of the criminal crew crop, an elite über institution of importers and wholesalers criminally superior to the street-level clot represented by the two gangs that had been specifically targeted: the well-known-to-police Falstaff Crips and Five Point Generalz.

Project Corral has emerged as a rare infiltration of a sophisticated criminal operation that has long managed to keep its fingerprints off narcotic trafficking and gun violence on Toronto’s streets, in large part by staying above the bloody neighbourhood level fray contested by their client gangs, police say. They’ll supply everybody, police say, and let the bullets fall where they may.

“Over the past several months, this investigation has focused not only on the gunmen and the drug traffickers, but the source of those drugs and those firearms,’’ Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told a news conference where the arrests and seizures were revealed.

“We always believed there was a criminal organization, even a criminal intelligence, that was operating behind many of the activities of the street gangs. This investigation has given us an opportunity to identify some of those individuals, to apprehend them and to compromise their ability to continue to supply drugs and firearms into these communities.â€

The alleged Shower Posse members have evolved from their roots in the “garrisons’’ of the poorest ghettoes in Kingston, Jamaica, where they spent decades fighting for turf with archrivals, most especially the Spanglers Posse. Both groups had deep ties to Jamaica’s two main political parties; were indeed born out of allegiances to politicians who provided them with protection from criminal prosecution in return for turning out the vote.

While it was speculated as far back as 15 years ago that the Shower Posse had secured a foothold in Toronto, they’re barely mentioned in the annals of local crime as reflected in arrests and prosecutions. Internationally, however, they have a massive profile and feared reputation, believed responsible for more than 1,400 murders in the United States.

American law enforcement officials have been trying without success for the past year to extradite Christopher Coke, believed to be the current Shower Posse boss in the Jamaican capital. Vivian Blake, co-found of the posse with Coke’s father (who died in a prison cell fire on the day he was to be extradited to the U.S.), passed away in Jamaica in March from kidney failure and diabetes. He warranted a lengthy obituary in the New York Times.

Investigators in the joint-forces operation launched their nine-month project last August following a spike of violent incidents in Toronto’s northwest region, apparently a spree of internecine bang-bang between the Cripps and the Generalz over drugs and territorial control. That conflict is blamed for two unsolved homicides on Falstaff St., near Jane St. and Highway 401: 22-year-old Tyrell Duffus slain on Feb. 8 of this year and 19-year-old Aeon Grant, killed last Dec. 3.

“Over the course of this investigation, a more significant crime involvement was identified,†said Blair. “We’ve identified an international organization which has tentacles into these street-level organizations and are supplying them with both drugs and guns, organizing and profiting from their criminal activities.â€

As part of the investigation, and working with the Canada Border Services Agency, three Toronto residents were recently arrested in the Dominican Republic over 72 kilograms of seized cocaine. The drugs were allegedly destined for Toronto.

Staff Insp. Mike Earl, head of the gun and gangs task force that led Project Corral, said the Shower Posse was at the hierarchical apex supplying drugs and weapons to local gangs for street level purchases.

Shower Posse members don’t necessarily look or behave like their client gangs, said Earl. “They’re older members. They’re not young kids. They’re a well-organized Jamaican criminal organization†that’s largely functioned off the police radar. “They’re very sophisticated. They’re very smart. But I can’t tell you much more about them. It’s not like they’re going to be wearing colours or you’re going to run into them on a day-to-day basis.

“They don’t wear do-rags.â€

Earl wouldn’t compare the Shower Posse to, say, the Mafia, though there are similarities in command and control. They also appear to be unafraid of law enforcement.

“I don’t think they’ve been touched before. They themselves believe they’re untouchable. We’ve finally made a step in the right direction.â€

Project Corral, which was put into raid-mode around 5 a.m. Tuesday, simultaneously executed 105 search warrants by officers from 19 organizations and 35 tactical squads. Three Toronto police stations were designated to process the arrests as many of the accused started routing through bail hearings at a Finch Ave. courthouse.

In Toronto neighbourhoods, some residents awoke to police banging on the door though others living nearby slept through the whole shebang.

“I was half asleep when I heard a loud bang and wondered what the heck it was,†said Cindy Wood, who lives in an apartment above stores on John St., north of Lawrence Ave. W., in the Weston neighbourhood.

Tactical officers used a pry bar to break open the street-level door to the staircase leading to the second floor units, where police had a suspect named in a search warrant.

It wasn’t until later that Wood and other tenants learned what the commotion was all about. While some residents answered the knock on their doors when they heard shouts of “Police! Open the door, we have a search warrant!†those who didn’t respond promptly got the forceful entry alternative.

“They came and knocked down two doors — one on the second floor and one on a higher floor,’’ said Mike, property manager of a highrise tower on Martha Eaton Way, near Trethewey and Black Creek Drs. “They (police) didn’t tell me anything. I heard about it later and I don’t know who they took away or how many people.â€

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, police had made 78 arrests, including females who had been discovered as found-ins.

Blair admitted that communities might feel traumatized by the raids but argued that police have an obligation to “disrupt and dismantle†gang operations that cause ordinary people to live in terror.

Police claim their seizure of guns, drugs and cash will cripple the activities of the Cripps and Generalz. Among the material seized: 10 firearms, $30,000 in cash, $10,500 in casino cheques, diamonds, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, hashish oil, more than 10,000 ecstasy pills, body armour and vehicles.

Charges laid run the gamut from trafficking in firearms and drugs, possession of prohibited firearms with ammunition, robbery, committing a criminal offence in association with a criminal organization and living off the avails of prostitution.

One of the Canadians charged in the Dominican had allegedly been a major player in the Jamestown Cripps a few years ago. The three Toronto residents were identified by Dominican authorities as Oliver A. Willis, David George Daniel Parker and Mauro Giuseppe. The 69 packages of cocaine had been hidden in the bed of a pickup truck.

But at least equal in significance to the drugs and guns seized in Toronto was the small inroad police have made into the mysteries of the Shower Posse — so named, allegedly, because of the tendency of their gunmen to spray victims (often innocent bystanders as well) in a “shower†of bullets.

The posse hadn’t been heard from hereabouts since the early ’90s. It’s unclear if they went away and came back or just dug down deeper.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the more traditional crime groups do go away,†said Toronto police Supt. Greg Getty. “Sometime they may be crippled, sometime they may change and morph into a different entity. But no, it would be naïve to assume they were ever really gone.â€

The Shower Posse, said Getty, was known to have offshore resource links. “The reality is they’re very insulated, very sophisticated and very difficult to infiltrate. In our experience, the higher level organized crime groups all across the country or across the GTA are not out on the street committing random acts of violence, so the insulation factor around them makes them much difficult for law enforcement to focus on.

“There was a crack in the armour and investigators were able to exploit that successfully.â€

With files from Jesse McLean, Jennifer Yang and Henry Stancu

Unsolved homicides
Project Corral has unearthed new information on two unsolved homicide, though police would not disclose any of the new details.

In December 2009, 19-year-old Aeon Grant and three friends were shot in the 15th-floor stairwell of 30 Falstaff Ave.

The men had unknowingly walked into an ambush, police said. Grant was hit in the head and died.

Elaine Sawyers, Grant’s grandmother, said she was relieved to hear the police may have new leads to find her grandson’s killer.

“We cannot get back Aeon, but we need to get these people off the streets,†she said. “This is the area (where) we live. It must be safe.â€

The other case is eerily similar: On Feb. 8, 2010, Tyrell Duffus was gunned down in the eighth-floor stairwell of 20 Falstaff Ave. — just minutes away from where Grant was killed.

Duffus was returning home to his apartment around 6:30 p.m., when he was shot. The 22-year-old lay there for four hours before a neighbour finally found his body.

His family said he had spent time in and out of jail, but that he wasn’t involved in anything gang-related.

Interesting article, though some of the facts may be slightly off.