Dozens attend candlelight vigil to honour YMCA employee killed in Toronto shooting

Dozens of people attended a candlelight vigil on Wednesday night in honour of a YMCA health and fitness instructor gunned down in his vehicle a week ago.

Shane Shannon Stanford, 33, was killed on Oct. 7. The event in his honour came amid calls for action on gun violence. Community members walked along Ranee Avenue, near the scene of the shooting, in the city’s Lawrence Heights neighbourhood.

Stanford, 33, who was part of the health and fitness team at the Central YMCA on Grosvenor Street near Yonge Street, had locked up the facility and headed home in the north end of the city when someone in another car opened fire. Police received a call about gunshots at 11:38 p.m.

The shooting happened in the area of Regina and Khedive avenues, near Bathurst Street and Ranee Avenue, north of Lawrence Avenue West.

Moments after the gunfire, Stanford’s car crashed into the side of a home. At the scene, the back window of the vehicle appeared to have been shot out. 

Stanford was found behind the wheel suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead in his vehicle. He is Toronto’s 58th homicide victim of the year.

Mourners walked near the scene of the shooting in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood as part of the vigil for Stanford. His brother called him calm and caring and said Stanford still had much to give. (Chris Langenzarde/CBC)

Ronnie Ferreira, Stanford’s older brother, said he and the rest of his family still haven’t fully come to terms with his death.

“We’re still in a bit of shock, as to why and how this could happen. At times, since this is happened, I’ll be looking out the window and I’m trying to imagine him coming home,” he said.

Ferreira said he can’t understand why anyone would want to hurt his little brother, who he described as calm and caring and who he says still had so much to give.

“He worked with a lot of youth. I’m like, ‘Wow, he really touched a lot of young kids’ lives.'”

Dejazmatch James, a long-time friend, said he was one of those kids who looked up to Stanford and they eventually became close friends.

He was “really like a big brother to us, he was the one that was always mature. Like Ronnie was saying, he was levelheaded,” James said.

‘He had a beautiful soul’

At the Central YMCA in downtown Toronto, a bouquet of flowers and a photo of Stanford, wearing his Y uniform and smiling, is displayed in the front window.

Mehdi Zobeiry, general manager of the YMCA, said Stanford was kind, giving and a role model for youth.

“It has been devastating to all of us. He had a beautiful soul,” Zobeiry told CBC Toronto. “He became very quickly one of our best instructors.”

Zobeiry said the YMCA is mourning his loss.

“He was telling me that his big goal was to become a general manager of a big facility one day and knowing that he just finished work and this tragedy happened, it broke everybody’s heart.”

Toronto police officers investigate at the scene of the shooting. (Jeremy Cohn/CBC)

Homicide unit hoping to identify suspect vehicle

Det. Sgt. Tim Gallant, the lead homicide investigator on the case, said police are continuing to canvas the area for surveillance video and are reviewing video that officers have obtained.

“We are actively pursuing numerous leads that we are hoping will lead us to identifying the suspect vehicle and the suspects responsible,” Gallant said.

Gallant said the car containing Stanford was shot at and the rear window was broken. A description of the suspect vehicle and any suspects has not been released.

Stanford had ‘warm, friendly personality’

A GoFundMe page in support of Stanford, which is filled with comments and donations from his students, coworkers and young people he had mentored at camp, has been set up.

“For those of you who don’t know Shane, he was a beloved member of our Health & Fitness team at the Central YMCA,” the GoFundMe page reads.

“If you ask his co-workers about him, they’ll tell you about Shane’s warm, friendly personality; the strong relationships he built with everyone around him, including Y staff, volunteers, and members; his drive to learn more and advance his career, how he always wanted to contribute to the team and pitch in to help whenever he could; and his passion for helping others through fundraising and championing the Y’s charitable activities.”

According to the GoFundMe page, Stanford started at YMCA as a co-op college student 10 years ago.

“Over the last decade, Shane has worked hard to build up his credentials and advance his full time career at the Y as a personal trainer, fitness and aquatics specialist and camp counsellor. He was a caring and impactful community leader. It is absolutely devastating that his life was cut short.”

At the walk, organizers were expected to present a list of homicide victims from the past 20 years in the neighbourhood.

A visitation for Stanford will take place on Friday at the Vescio Funeral Home, Toronto Chapel, 2080 Dufferin St., from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

At the Central YMCA in downtown Toronto, a bouquet of flowers and a photo of Shane Shannon Stanford, 33, wearing his Y uniform and smiling, is displayed in the front window. He was shot to death on Oct. 7 in his car. (Jasmin Seputis/CBC)

CBC | Toronto News

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