Project Sizzle, a major Toronto Police gang-busting investigation, has cut deep into a violent street-level guns, drugs and prostitution organization.
Police Chief Mark Saunders said the six-month probe was able to pierce the Heart of a King Gang, believed to be responsible for at least three recent murders.
“This is such a strong testament of the importance of partnerships. We get to have amazing conclusions like we have today,” Saunders said as he praised all involved: more than 600 Toronto, Peel, Durham, Halton and Montreal officers, with 10 police services in all assisting in Project Sizzle.
The joint-forces operation began in January and culminated in a series of pre-dawn raids across the GTA, in Montreal and in Halifax last Thursday, resulting in 43 people arrested, along with 21 leading up to the raids, all thought to be Heart of the King members or associates. A total of 285 charges were laid.
The raids resulted in the seizure of thousands of dollars’ worth of drugs, weapons and jewelry. Police displayed part of the large assortment of handguns and other weapons at a news conference.
Police allege that the Heart of A King gang, also known as HOK, is responsible for a string of violent crimes that took place mainly in the downtown core, over the past few years including the murders of Charles Shillingford, 25, Quinn Taylor, 29 and David Michael Eminess, 26.
“This gang through intelligence information, we know had a propensity for violence and they were involved, we believe, in several homicides in the city of Toronto,” said Inspector Bryan Bott of the Integrated Gun and Gang Task force of Toronto Police.
“The HOK Gang criminal activity was centred around adult entertainment establishments and local bars,” Bott said, adding that members relied on gun and drug trafficking, as well as prostitution and fraud to support their well-heeled lifestyle.
Investigators say the Heart of a King Gang, which began operating in 2010, originated from a well known gang from Nova Scotia called North Preston’s Finest.
Alleged HOK Gang leader Jahmal ‘Bambino’ Richardson, 31, of Oakville, was arrested in May and charged with first-degree murder in the death of Shillingford last Halloween.
Mitchell Mannette, 20, and Denzell Desmond, 19, both of Halifax, along with Kyle Sparks MacKinnon, 26, of Toronto, were also charged with first-degree murder in that shooting.