Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jun 2007
Source: Toronto Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2007 The Toronto Star
Author: Linda Diebel, Staff reporter
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)
Bookmark: (Youth)


Here's a different perspective on yesterday's police raids.

It comes from Andrene, who is 10 years old and experienced the first 
minutes at the end of police guns after officers burst into her 
bedroom just before dawn.

She was there with her mother, Sharon Mitchell, 32, and baby sister, 
Alexandra, 2. Down the hall in another bedroom were her cousin, 
Joanna, 9, and Joanna's mother, Charmaine Osbourne, 30.

"This morning, the police officers, they came and they were kicking 
down the doors," said Andrene in a solemn voice. "And they came in 
with their guns and they were pointing at my sister and me.

"My sister got scared and she was crying."

Everything happened at once. A loud explosion, noise, chaos, smoke, 
doors battered down and police guns with red lights glowing in the dark.

One of the older girls was so terrified, she wet herself.

At some point during the raid on the townhouse on Driftwood Ave., in 
a city housing complex near Jane St. and Finch Ave. W., police 
arrested the girls' uncle, Fitzroy Osbourne, 28. He is brother to 
both Sharon and Charmaine.

By last night, it wasn't clear if he had been charged and police said 
no announcements would be made until today.

Andrene doesn't know about any of that. All she knows is that she was 
scared. "(The) guns they pointed at the kids aren't good," she said. 
"I don't think they'd better (do that) anymore."

When asked why not, she replied softly: "Because other kids get scared."

Andrene told her story yesterday afternoon, sitting with Alexandra in 
their townhouse. It still reeked of tear gas -- or whatever police 
used in the raid -- and was littered with debris. The bottom of the 
refrigerator was burned black, windows were broken and clothes, toys, 
children's drawings and other possessions were strewn everywhere.

The kitchen was unusable.

Alexandra was trying to coax Boss, a little white poodle-mix, to 
play. But the dog whined. The fur on its left side was burned to the skin.

Osbourne, who is looking after the dog, said the animal was burned 
during the police raid on another townhouse in the row. His owners 
were arrested and the home was boarded up.

She is angry that police had children at gunpoint. A supervisor for 
the Toronto school board, Osbourne said police should have known 
better than to do that, especially when she believes their 
surveillance would have shown children lived there.

Osbourne and her daughter, Joanna, hit the floor at the first blast, 
but police ordered them back up on the bed. "They had both of us on 
the bed with high-powered rifles pointed at us," said Osbourne, 
claiming they were held at gunpoint for about half an hour before 
being allowed to wait outside the house.

"My daughter was crying like there was no end to it. She was there 
crying and they had a gun on her.

"It was literally like she was having a seizure this morning. She was 
shaking. I had to grip this kid, I had to grip her real tight."

Later, it was impossible to calm Joanna down so Osbourne sent her to relatives.

Osbourne argued her brother is innocent, and that he worked to raise 
money after Jordon Manners, 15, was killed in a recent shooting at 
nearby C.W. Jefferys Collegiate. She said her brother doesn't belong 
to the Driftwood Crips.

Still, that's not her point.

"Look, whatever you think -- that there is a criminal inside, or not, 
a murderer or not -- you should think before you act because there 
are kids in the house," she said, adding police surveillance should 
have shown the presence of children.

"This is Metro housing," she said. "They look at us as black and in a 
poor neighbourhood and so obviously, you must be doing drugs."

Yesterday afternoon, city housing workers were putting the doors back 
on the house. But no tests appeared to have been done on the air the 
children were breathing.

Mitchell said that during the ordeal she asked police whether the 
thick smoke would hurt her kids. One officer who, like the others, 
wore a protective mask, apparently replied: "Oh no, it's not going to 
harm them."

Mitchell also complained about the window that was blown out in her 
sister's bedroom: "If there hadn't been a drape there, they would 
have been cut to pieces by the glass."

There were many opinions yesterday in the Driftwood Ave. slice of 
northern Toronto where the raids occurred. Some people were 
skeptical, a few applauded.

A group of Somali-Canadian women watching police take evidence from a 
house on Driftwood Court said they didn't think it would make any difference.

"I've been living here for 15 years and the police do something like 
this every year," said one woman. "But nothing ever changes. We don't 
feel safe living here. ... They didn't get everybody."

Phillip, 21 and a York University student, thought police made a 
start. He lives in one of the area's many public housing complexes 
and said his mother woke him up to say: "It's about time."

Ted Royle, Fitzroy Osbourne's lawyer, said he didn't know what 
charges, had been laid because he hadn't yet heard from his client. 
He said Osbourne has never been arrested for anything serious -- "no 
guns or drugs" -- but wouldn't elaborate on his police record.

But Royle said that "every time the police do this, there are 100 new 
recruits (for gangs). It just alienates young people. All they do is 
perpetuate the cycle of mistrust of authority that exists in the 
urban subculture."

Again, that's something Andrene wouldn't understand.

But no comment seemed more powerful than her one-word answer to the 
question, "Were you scared?"

"Yeah," she said, almost under her breath.

It was barely audible.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman