A violent downtown street gang called Heart of a King has been “eradicated” following a Canada-wide investigation leading to the arrests of 53 people and the laying of 285 charges, Toronto police announced Friday.
Police say the guns and gangs operation, nicknamed Project Sizzle, began in January which resulted in predawn raids at multiple locations in the Greater Toronto Area on Thursday — totalling 43 search warrants.
In addition to the arrests of the suspects, four of whom were apprehended in Montreal, several items were also seized including 11 vehicles, 17 firearms, an undisclosed amount of drugs, body armour, jewelry and $45,000 in cash.
Investigators say the Heart of a King gang, also known as H.O.K., which began operating in 2010, originated from a well known gang from Nova Scotia called North Preston’s Finest.
“This criminal organization was most active in the downtown core of Toronto with most of the criminal activity centred around adult entertainment establishments and local bars,” said Insp. Bryan Bott of the Integrated Guns and Gangs Task Force during a press conference Friday morning.
“We allege the leader of H.O.K. is Jahmal Richardson. His alias is Bam or Bambino.”
Richardson was arrested and charged with first-degree murder last month in connection to the 2015 homicide of Charles Shillingford.
Police say the H.O.K. gang was also linked to a fatal shooting in downtown Toronto’s Chinatown district that claimed the lives of two people and injuring three others on Jan. 31.
VIDEO: Saunders: ‘Wherever they were, there’s a propensity for violence’
“These types of lifestyles, they’re always short lived. I’ve never seen longevity and people that invest in street gang activity to be successful, like in the movie videos and all those things,” said Chief Mark Saunders.
“No one has ever ran the gauntlet and been successful at the end.”
Police said several other law enforcement organizations took part in the investigation including the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, Peel Police, York Regional Police, Guelph Police, Barrie Police, Waterloo Police, Peterborough and South Simcoe.
VIDEO: Police hopeful ‘Project Sizzle’ raids will provide leads in other investigations
Saunders said the guns and gangs probe isn’t over and more arrests are expected.
“When arrests are made, especially in this volume, it creates a bit of a vacuum effect, but it also provides an opportunity for an information vacuum where now that certain people that pose danger are apprehended,” Saunders explained.
“It gives us an opportunity where people may feel safe to say now, ‘You know what, I knew this information. I’m willing to give it to you know. I feel safe and here it is.'”