AULAKH email@example.com_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-01-03 published
son may have been target
Police make arrest in woman's death
By Raveena AULAKH and Timothy APPLEBY, Page A8
Toronto -- Jean SPRINGER may have been shot down when she tried to protect her youngest son from a friend who showed up at her front door with a gun, according to a Toronto police source.
Ms. SPRINGER, 60, was killed on New Year's Day by a single bullet that struck her in the face. She was pronounced dead at Sunnybrook hospital, becoming the city's first homicide victim of 2007.
Heavily armed officers arrested 26-year-old Altaf IBRAHIM 12 hours later in his basement apartment in Scarborough, a few minutes drive from the SPRINGER home. He is charged with first-degree murder, a charge that implies the killing was planned.
A police source said last night that the gunman may have been looking for Ms. SPRINGER's youngest son Antoine, also 26, when he arrived at the SPRINGER home in the Malvern neighbourhood about 2: 30 p.m.
"It looks like there was some kind of dispute between the two young men and Ms. SPRINGER got between and got shot," a police source said.
The accused is said to have known Ms. SPRINGER's youngest son, who along with an older brother was in his mother's Snowball Crescent home Monday as she prepared New Year's Day dinner.
"They grew up together, at least from their teen years," said Detective Gary GRINTON of the Toronto homicide squad.
Mr. IBRAHIM lives alone in an apartment on Brimorton Drive. He was arrested about 2 a.m. yesterday without a struggle. Clad in orange prison garb, he appeared briefly in court in Scarborough yesterday and was remanded in custody. Police were still seeking the handgun allegedly used to kill Ms. SPRINGER, known locally as "Auntie Jeannie."
"You have what I believe was a truly innocent woman just going about her business," Det. GRINTON said of Ms. SPRINGER, widely described as an exemplary citizen, devoted parent and regular worshipper at the Malvern Methodist Church. "It's shocking."
Neither Mr. IBRAHIM nor any members of the SPRINGER family have criminal records. And if there was any animosity before Monday's shooting, it had not been manifest in the shape of threats or any physical altercations, Det. GRINTON said.
Nor were any gang affiliations involved, he said. "None whatsoever."
He dismissed a news report that said the gunman yelled "Happy New Year," as he opened fire, but agreed that because Ms. SPRINGER let him into her home, she likely perceived no threat.
Beyond stating that postshooting 911 calls were received from several neighbours, as well as from within the SPRINGER home, detectives would not say what led them to charge Mr. IBRAHIM so quickly.
Yesterday, at the three-unit house where Mr. IBRAHIM has lived since last summer, few neighbours seemed to know much about the basement apartment's tall, solitary occupant, who would sometimes step outside for a cigarette but mostly kept to himself.
"He moved in when the new owner bought the house," said George BOORNE, who lives across the street and saw the 2 a.m. arrest. "But I never saw him around."
At the SPRINGER home yesterday, Friends and neighbours voiced shock and sorrow at the brutal death of a woman described as a popular pillar of the community who often helped organize local events.
"I met her on New Year's Eve at the home of one of our sisters, we had a good time," said Norma McKENZIE, who had known Ms. SPRINGER at the Malvern Methodist Church for 10 years.
Ms. McKENZIE described the family of four as God-fearing, close-knit, regular church-goers. "Antoine was part of my team at Ford company and we worked well together."
Other worshippers concurred in praising Ms. SPRINGER's devotion to family and church.
"She was closely involved with the church," said Sandra LECKY, church secretary. "We know where she is today -- there was no victory here."
Church staff brought in extra chairs yesterday evening as mourners packed in to pay their respects. Those in attendance hugged and consoled one another, occasionally rising in songs.
Reading from a statement prepared by Ms. SPRINGER's family -- most attended the service but did not want to speak to reporters youth pastor Marlon MITCHELL described her as "… quiet, charming, intelligent and very much understated in manner. She had style and flair, but all of it counted for nothing compared to how much she celebrated her relationship with God through Jesus Christ."
Ms. SPRINGER was born in 1946 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. As a student, she won a scholarship to a grammar school for girls and eventually earned a teacher's diploma. She arrived in Canada in the late 1960s, and initially continued teaching primary school. However, she soon switched jobs, becoming an accountant. Self-employed, she stayed in that line of work until her death.
But it was her religious faith that stood out above all else, Friends said yesterday. Indeed, it is that faith that now allows her family to bear no grudges against the man accused of stepping into her home and taking her life.
"Today we mourn her loss, but our faith calls on us to forgive others [as] God has in Christ forgiven us," Mr. MITCHELL read from the family's statement yesterday. "Jean had a forgiving spirit and we are sure that she would want us to forgive whoever has committed this senseless act."
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