One of the men in a controversial photo of Mayor Rob Ford and homicide victim Anthony Smith was injured in the same shooting that claimed Smith’s life, the Star has learned.
Muhammad Khattak, a 19-year-old living in north Etobicoke, was hit in the arm and back the same night Smith was killed two months ago outside a King St. nightclub.
A photo of Ford arm in arm with three young men was given to the Star by a man who later showed this paper a cellphone video of Ford smoking from what appears to be a crack pipe.
Two sources, one with the Toronto police and another involved in politics, tell the Star homicide detectives are now investigating whether that phone originally belonged to 21-year-old Smith. (There is no indication Khattak or the third young man is involved in either the video or the drug trade.)
Homicide detectives did not return calls.
Khattak’s mother, who identified herself as Zen, said she asked Khattak what he was doing in the nighttime photo, in which Ford is casually dressed and Smith is apparently drinking.
“He said: ‘Was I drinking? Was I smoking? Did you see anything with me?’ ” she said.
Zen said Khattak told her everybody wanted to take photos with the mayor. He would not give her any more details about the night.
The Star was contacted about the footage four days after Smith’s death.
Khattak’s mother said she has no idea how her son or Smith ended up involved in a shooting.
“I’m still shocked. This kid was a very good kid too,” she said, gesturing to Smith’s photo, her eyes puffy and pink.
“My son, I know him, he’s a very innocent kid. They’re friends. They’re having fun, whatever they’re doing outside. But I know them — they are nice kids. They are very nice.”
She said the duo have been friends since they were as young as 10. They used to play on the same basketball team.
“It’s not safe, Toronto,” she said.
Khattak recently left his family home to avoid attention generated by the photo’s publication.
A Facebook profile under one of his nicknames is peppered with photos of Smith and tributes to the young man.
“RIP Big Bro,” reads a caption on one photo, posted April 7, of a man wearing jeans and a dark hooded sweatshirt who appears to be Smith. “Forever In My Heart Mourn Till We Join You General. . . ”
Another photo shows a tribute spray-painted at the centre of a community basketball court in Dixon Park. “R.I.P. RONDO,” it reads.
Rondo was one of Smith’s nicknames.
The two men were shot outside Loki Lounge nightclub on King St. W. near Portland St., sometime after 2:30 a.m. on March 28.
Nisar Hashimi, 23, turned himself in April 4 after he was named a suspect. He has been charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the death of Smith and shooting of Khattak.
During a recent visit to the Toronto jail, a reporter was told by Hashimi he had never heard of or seen Smith until he was charged in his murder.
“I’m innocent,” he said. “I don’t know these guys. . . . I don’t know why I’m here.”
Hashimi said all he knows about Smith is what he has read in the newspaper since the drug allegations about Ford have surfaced.
Two weeks ago, the Star revealed that two reporters had viewed a 90-second cellphone video that appears to show the mayor smoking crack cocaine. A group of Somali-Canadian drug dealers who claim to have sold the drug to Ford on numerous occasions, offered to sell the video to the Star for $100,000. They also approached the American gossip website, Gawker. Its editor, John Cook, also viewed and wrote about the video.
Ford dismissed the stories as “ridiculous” the day after both ran, but it took a week before he issued a full denial. On his Sunday radio show, when a female caller asked him to explain the photo, Ford said he takes photos with “everybody.”
“That’s very sad, that she’s a racist,” the mayor said afterward, referring to the fact that the three men in the photo are all minorities.
Both the Star and Gawker declined to pay for the footage. After the contents of the video were made public, the dealers raised their price to $200,000. Gawker launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money. It met its goal just hours ahead of deadline.
Neither the Star nor Gawker has been in touch with the men selling the video for a week. A broker who is acting on their behalf is still in touch and says the dealers are “laying low.”
Robyn Doolittle can be reached on her cellphone, 647-404-4740, or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
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