tragedy.in.canada

Joshua Yasay had recently earned a degree in criminology and hoped to apply for the police force.  (Photo courtesy of the Yasay family)


TORONTO — Minutes before his death, Joshua Yasay messaged his close friend Steven, according to the Toronto Star.

“He was messaging me saying he doesn’t know why he’s there, it’s not his kind of crowd,” said Steven.

“I messaged back and said, ‘Don’t be there, just leave.’”

The messages stopped at 10:16 p.m.

The shooting started shortly after.

Yasay, a 23-year-old from Ajax, was gunned down last Monday night when bullets flew at a community barbecue in Scarborough, near Morningside Ave. and Lawrence Ave.

A 14-year-old girl, Shyanne Charles, was also killed in the melee.

As CPR was performed on Yasay, party organizer Shannon Longshaw stood by.

“We just saw blood. He just said, ‘Don’t let me die. Save me.’”

Yasay’s was a life full of big dreams — some already achieved and many that will go unfulfilled.

He earned an honors bachelor of arts degree in criminology from York University last year and opened a barbershop with a friend.

Over the past two years he spent his scant spare time coaching basketball for at-risk youth in Malvern, trying to stem the very kind of violence that led to his death.

“The one thing that he’d want is to find out who did this to him so it could give his family some peace,” said Jennilyn Grace Yasay, her voice thickening with tears.

“I don’t know; I’m without words right now,” said Jennilyn, one of Yasay’s two older sisters.

“I just basically want to say he was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and justice will be served.”

Yasay and a friend opened Goodfellas Barber Lounge in Ajax last October.

He split his time between being a security guard at Commerce Court in downtown Toronto, coaching basketball and running the barbershop.

While building his business and working, Yasay still had his eyes on the next step — he and Steven planned to apply for the police force together.

“He was setting stones for what he’s going to do next, what he’s going to accomplish,” said Steven.

He said that despite Yasay’s busy schedule, he would make time for friends and was always there for anyone that needed it.

“He was a good person. Part of the reason why we called it Goodfellas was because of that,” said a close friend who co-owns the barbershop with Yasay.

He asked not to be named.

He lost a friend today, he said, his voice low.

Men lounged in the quiet shop outfitted with black leather barber chairs and a flat-screen television in the back.

None was ready to talk about their lost friend.

Yasay just bought a brand-new car last Saturday, Steven said.

But he wasn’t driving last Monday night, so Steven’s warnings and Yasay’s discomfort went unheeded.

Yasay felt fulfilled when he was coaching youth basketball, said Katie Bushie, program manager at the Learning Disabilities Association of Toronto.

She said his face would light up when he walked in, and any stress from running the business or working would disappear.

Yasay even stayed after hours to spend time mentoring some of the kids.

“It’s not good for anybody when this happens, but he was one of the good guys. That’s what it comes down to. He was one of the true good guys really trying to equalize the playing field,” Bushie said.

A passionate basketball fan, he directed his last tweet at the Toronto Raptors’ most recent acquisition, Landry Fields.

Yasay wrote: “welcome to Toronto! You’ll love it here! City like no other!”

He believed that his work with the kids would help prevent violence and keep them from a life of crime, said Bushie.

He coached kids aged 13 to 17 — a particularly at-risk and headstrong group.

His supervisor said he was able to get through to even the most difficult kids.

“They’re the ones that are picking up the guns, they’re the ones having those struggles,” said Bushie.

“Josh got that part; that’s why he was so passionate about working with them.”

In June, after the program ended for the summer, Bushie tried to bring Yasay on as a paid employee as opposed to a volunteer, but he said he couldn’t imagine taking money for the work, she said.

“He was a real angel.”