By TOM GODFREY
Members of the Lawrence Heights community are saddened and in shock over the senseless slaying of a beloved supply teacher and injuries inflicted to two others in a random shooting last week.
Busloads of students and friends paid their final respects to popular and well-liked teacher, Abshir Hassan, last Friday at the Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in Rexdale.
More than 1,000 mourners, including hundreds of community members, jammed the mosque as Imam Mahamed Ali hailed Hassan’s work in the community.
“Those who knew him say he was a good man,” the Imam said. “It is a loss to all of us in the community and for the whole city.”
A trust fund has been established in Hassan’s name to help young students.
Hassan, 31, who was born in Somalia, and a young couple were shot multiple times outside an apartment building on Flemington Rd.
Police said Hassan was attending the birthday party of a friend and had gone outside to move his vehicle when he was shot.
Detectives said the shooting was not targeted but was a random act and are searching for suspects.
Members of Hassan’s family had been after him to move out of the area.
The Master’s student at York University grew up in the neighbourhood and remained there to work with young students, who hailed him as a mentor, positive role model, volunteer and trusted friend.
Friends said Hassan volunteered for after-school programs and was hired last year as a supply teacher at Lawrence Heights and Flemingdon Public School, instructing students from Grades 6 to 8.
Hassan earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from York University in 2008 and went on to complete his Bachelor of Education in 2011.
David deBelle, principal of Lawrence Heights Middle School, said the slaying of the respected teacher has affected students in the close-knit community.
“His death has had a great impact on students,” said deBelle. “This young man had so much more to offer students and the community at large. It is a great loss.”
Rima Berns-McGown, a professor of Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto, described Hassan as “a good, caring person, a teacher and a student, working hard to fix everything that needs to be fixed.
“He was one of the young, brilliant, critical thinkers – a second-generation Somali youth – who are now doing research that is enlightening and beginning to make enormous change,” she wrote.
Hassan was a volunteer at Success Beyond Limits (SBL), a community group that works with youths to stay in school and was a member of a Somali Task Force to help train teachers.
“He was a teacher of the highest quality, and had the love and respect of all of his students, because he loved and respected all of his students,” SBL members said on their webpage.
Gary Pieters, of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, said the community has suffered a great loss.
“We are saddened at the shooting death of Mr. Hassan,” said Pieters. “We regret the news of his untimely passing due to reckless gun violence that has again resurfaced in the city.”
Police said an 18-year-old woman and a 22-year-old man who were also wounded in the shooting are recuperating in hospital.
Officers are looking for multiple suspects who police believe pulled up in a vehicle and fired more than a dozen shots at close range.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 416-808-3200 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477).
Members of the public can donate to the Hassan fund to help Lawrence Heights students at the CIBC. The transit number is 01912 and the account number is 7916280.