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Police revise SUV shooting deaths theory

Toronto homicide detectives have abandoned the theory that 25-year-old best friends Dylan Ellis and Oliver Martin were fatally shot in a case of mistaken identity, and are launching a campaign to revive the year-old investigation.

At a press conference on Wednesday, police will release new information about the killing of the two young men, exactly one year ago this Saturday, while they sat in an idling SUV on Richmond Street West.

"The motive still remains unclear," Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux, the lead investigator, said Monday. "We’ve had 12 months to look at their lifestyles and I still say there is still no precipitating event …. They weren’t involved in any illegal activity that would bring them in harm’s way."

Police were working on the theory that the gunman may have been trying to target another Range Rover or similar vehicle. However, Det. Sgt. Giroux said he no longer believes that is the case based on the reconstruction of the scene by forensic scientists.

"The offender was close to the vehicle. When the offender got up to the car, he would’ve known that they were not who he was looking for."

Mr. Martin’s mother, Susan, is unwilling to dismiss the possibility. "[The suspect] had to have done this very quickly, so he is not going to stop and think it’s the wrong person," she said. "Who knows? It’s not going to bring Oliver and Dylan back."

Police have gone over various theories with their family, said Mr. Martin’s stepfather, Alan Dudeck.

"It’s frustrating for us but for them as well. This is a double homicide with no apparent motive…. It was not a drug deal that had gone bad or anything of that nature. So it’s baffling."

Mr. Martin and Mr. Ellis were shot in front of a friend’s home while waiting to drop off a set of keys. Mr. Martin’s girlfriend, who was in the back seat of the vehicle, was not shot.

"There was an exchange between Dylan Ellis and the offender. But it is insignificantly brief, something like, ‘How’s it going?’ Or ‘What’s up?’ and then it’s just shots,’" Det. Sgt. Giroux said.

He said he wonders what event led to the shooting. "It doesn’t have to be an overt, deliberate act from [the victims] that would cause this type of reaction. This could be fairly insignificant, but it’s important to [the gunman] and it was important to him to do something like this in a public place."

For both victims’ families, it seems as though little time has passed since "the boys" died.

"It still feels surreal," Mr. Dudeck said. "Coming to terms with it has been the most difficult. It just smacks you in every which way when you least expect it. To look for any rational, logic, understanding, faith-based answer doesn’t work."

Mr. Martin and Mr. Ellis’s loved ones have devoted their energies to various causes.

Mr. Dudeck is preparing to address the Police Services Board next week to express his concerns about the way his family was treated following the murder.

When he and Ms. Martin arrived at St. Michael’s Hospital early on June 13, he said they were not allowed to see their son.

Also, he said the family had to wait 11 months to get the coroner’s report.

The evening that Mr. Dudeck speaks to the police board, friends will be throwing a concert festival to remember the young men and to raise money for anti-violence initiatives. They have gathered a number of prominent sponsors, including Barrick Gold and Roots Canada, and 15 Canadian artists.

"I refuse to let Dylan be defined by the way we lost him," Ms. Ellis-Elia said. "[The festival is] a positive way to promote the idea of making the city safer. It’s also for every family and everyone who’s lost a friend or family member."

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