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A friend asked for directions, then two strangers shot them dead on Spadina Ave., Crown says at murder trial opening

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A Toronto jury has begun hearing evidence in a case of two men accused of spraying Spadina Ave. with gunfire after a stranger asked for directions to an after-hours party in Kensington Market.

Jahmal Richardson and Kyle Sparks MacKinnon are accused of killing two men, almost taking the life of another, and wounding two others. They have pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, attempted murder with a firearm and two aggravated assaults.

Shooting victims David Eminess, seen left in a police handout photo, and Quinn Taylor, seen in an Instagram photo, were shot dead in Chinatown early on Jan. 31, 2016.
Shooting victims David Eminess, seen left in a police handout photo, and Quinn Taylor, seen in an Instagram photo, were shot dead in Chinatown early on Jan. 31, 2016.  (Star file photos)

In the downtown courthouse not far from the carnage, prosecutors Kerry Hughes and Susan Adams opened their case Wednesday telling a Superior Court jury what evidence they are expected to hear, and also what they won’t.

While several witnesses who watched and heard events unfold early Jan. 31, 2016 will testify, none will be able to point to the accused and identify either as the person they recognize as one of the shooters, Hughes told jurors during her opening remarks.

The Crown’s case will be based on different pieces of circumstantial evidence that, taken together, will be “just as convincing as direct evidence,” and will include video footage from storefronts, a dying victim’s ID, photos of a gun found at the scene and the testimony of a survivor who was shot in the head, Hughes said.

She outlined the Crown’s theory:

Stewart Douglas and his friends Quinn Taylor and David Eminess were searching for an after-hours party in Kensington Market when, she said, Douglas asked for directions from a group of men standing outside the New Ho King restaurant on the west side of Spadina, several blocks south of College St.

“Douglas asked once, then stepped away to light a cigarette. He then went back and approached a man wearing a sleeveless black vest with fur around the armholes,” Hughes said. “When he asked that man where the after-hours party was, instead of an answer to his question he was shot in the head.”

Douglas, shot at close range, will testify that although they were complete strangers, he can describe the man who shot him, the Crown attorney said.

At least one other man, the Crown alleges it was Sparks MacKinnon, drew a gun and opened fire on the street, sending people running for cover. At least 16 shots were fired from at least two guns, Hughes said.

Eminess died after being shot in the back of the head by a single bullet.

Multiple bullets hit Taylor, who asked bystanders to “please call 911, they’re shooting at people,” before collapsing in a restaurant doorway. As he lay mortally wounded, Hughes said, Taylor told a police officer the man who shot him was mixed-race and wearing a red sweater and thick gold chain. Two other men in the area were also hit by gunfire, one shot in the calf, the other in the elbow, she said.

Prior to the shooting, Richardson was captured on surveillance video walking up Spadina with five other men wearing non-descript clothing, Hughes said. Sparks MacKinnon joined them a few minutes later, she said.

The two defendants were wearing distinctive clothing that evening, Hughes said. Richardson wore a black fur vest and large, fur-trimmed hood, tattoos could be seen running down the length of both arms, she said, adding he had around his neck a thick chain with a large circle with a letter B and wings on either side.

Sparks MacKinnon was dressed in a long-sleeved sweater, described by witnesses as red, red with a pattern on it, or purple, she said, adding he also wore a gold necklace with a large round medallion.

One witness is expected to testify that while he saw people fleeing the area, he took note of five men walking northbound.

“One man was being patted on the back by another as they walked. People in the group were smiling, and the man being patted on the back was walking kind of proudly,” Hughes said, summarizing the witness’s observations.

He will describe that man as someone wearing a coat with a hood trimmed with gold-coloured fur, she said.

The trial resumes Thursday.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy

Read more:

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If you shoot someone dead in Toronto — you have a three in five chance of getting away with murder

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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