TORONTO - It was an armed standoff in Kensington Market few even knew about.
At one end of an alley in the heart of the Spadina and College-area market there were three young punks, armed and dangerous. At the other end were two Toronto Police officers looking for three fitting the description of armed robbery suspects.
The potential for blood, death, funerals and God knows what else was not only possible, but imminent on June 8.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” said Supt. Neil Corrigan, unit commander of Toronto Police’s 14 Division.
In almost 30 years as a Toronto cop, Corrigan thought he has pretty much seen it all.
But he had never seen what happened next.
“Normally when the police arrive, in my experience, young people just run away,” he said.
Instead the trio starred down police and started hurling insults and challenged the officers.
“They had no fear of police and no understanding of the job we are sworn to do,” said Corrigan.
The teens had allegedly just robbed eight people at gunpoint outside a coffee shop at Bellevue and Nassau.
“One of the victims was a female who was poked in the ribs by a handgun. Others lost their wallets and cellphones, credit cards and cash. They were all traumatized.”
Meanwhile, the thugs were ”yelling that the police have no power to do anything and there is nothing we could do,” Corrigan said. “They were wrong.”
They just didn’t know it yet.
“One of the youths brushed up against a car in the alley and there was a loud clang. Right away my officers knew the suspect was armed with a heavy-duty gun.”
Calling it “remarkable” policing, his officers swooped in and arrested two of the youths.
Aged 15 and 16, they are in custody and two loaded handguns are off the street. They next day, police arrested the third suspect, 16, but are still looking for his gun.
They will appear at 311 Jarvis St. court Thursday at 9 a.m. The charges include “robbery with firearm, point firearm, use firearm in commission of offence, unauthorized possession of a firearm, possession of a restricted firearm with ammunition, possession of firearm contrary to prohibition order, possession of a weapon obtained by crime” as well as bail and probation condition breaches.
“It’s just pure luck no one was hurt or killed,” said Det.-Sgt. Ian McArthur, of 14 Division Criminal Investigation Bureau.
What about next time?
In a climate of banned carding and soft-on-crime courts, today’s young, armed criminal doesn’t seem to have any fear of carrying loaded guns or using them.
Corrigan says the defiance and notion among armed youth that officers are handcuffed thanks to politics and regulations is alarming because he shudders to think what could have transpired.
This is why he took to Twitter and Facebook.
On Twitter he wrote June 9: “Bad guys believe cops are not allowed to stop or talk to them, is that why so many seem to carry guns now? @TPS14Div @TPSOperations.”
On Facebook: “My officers respond to a robbery call, they locate two suspects nearby who tell my officers that the police can’t stop them and can’t talk to them! The suspects are armed with two concealed guns in their pockets yet they believe the police are no longer allowed to stop or talk to them. That is the problem!!”
A problem for everybody’s safety.
“This is all about community safety,” said Corrigan. “Safety for my officers, safety for everybody.”
But when you have young criminals who have no respect for police, are so brazen, there is an issue that needs to be dealt with.
“That’s why I wrote what I wrote,” said Corrigan.
It’s more preferable than writing a letter to the widow of another slain police officer or parent of a dead kid shot by police. Corrigan almost had to write a bunch of them last week.