There were balloons, red carpets, three bouncy castles and happy children everywhere at one-year-old Kaiden Leitch’s Baby Shark-themed birthday party on June 19, 2021, in Rexdale.
Then came the gunshots — at least 22 — into the crowd, a brazen shooting that stunned the city. A five-year-old girl was shot in the head. An 11-year-old boy was shot in the buttock. Kaiden was grazed on his forehead, possibly by a stray bullet, possibly as people fled in panic.
On Thursday, after a trial that hinged on dramatic security camera footage and a photo provided by a confidential informant, a judge found that the boy’s own father played a key role in the chaos.
Kevin George was the person who first opened fire, targeting Demar Cadogan, the boyfriend of Kaiden’s mother, Joy Leitch, Ontario court Justice Peter Fraser ruled, delivering his verdict in a Toronto courthouse.
Fraser acquitted George of his most serious charge of attempted murder but found him guilty of discharging a firearm with intent to endanger the life of Cadogan and the life of the five-year-old girl who was in his line of fire and continues to suffer vision and hearing problems. George is also guilty of two related counts of aggravated assault.
However, Fraser acquitted George of firing at the boy and his own son, finding it is not clear he fired in their direction at the townhouse complex on Tandridge Crescent, near Byng Avenue, shortly before 8 p.m.
The camera evidence proved crucial to identifying George as the first of four men, including Cadogan, to open fire at the party — in the video, George can clearly be seen wearing a red hat.
(Cadogan, who was shot in both legs, has previously pleaded guilty to possession of a loaded firearm and was sentenced to the equivalent of five years in prison.)
Fraser was able to conclude George was the man in a red hat in part by carefully examining the photograph of a man in a red hat at the party wearing a blue and yellow shirt that said “Daddy Shark” — just like other family members who wore similar shirts showing their relationship to the birthday boy. That man resembled George, who performed at the party as “NHS Kenzo” in the same distinctive clothing, including jewelled shoes and a chain, and who wore the same clothes in photos posted on his Instagram account, Fraser said. The man in the red hat also interacted with Kaiden at the party, leaving “no other rational inference” than that he is George, Fraser said.
None of the witnesses from the party, including Kaiden’s mother, assisted the court with how or why the gunfight happened or who the shooters were, the judge noted.
The video shows George, the man in the red hat, drawing a gun, and so did the target Cadogan. The first shot is around 7:50 p.m.
Cadogan was shot in both legs and can be seen in the video clearly wounded and unable to walk. One gunman dressed in black fired five shots toward Cadogan, hitting him in one leg.
George rapidly fired six shots at Cadogan. Another man fired a further 10 shots at him.
It is unclear whose gunshots struck the children or who shot Cadogan a second time, Fraser said. Cadogan fired one shot, but away from the crowded party.
Passport photos taken two days after the shooting were found in the room where George was arrested.
Fraser did not find George was working with the two other shooters, who remain unidentified. There is no evidence he knew the other shooters would also open fire, Fraser said.
Fraser acquitted George of the attempted murder of Cadogan because he could not find beyond a reasonable doubt that he fired at Cadogan with lethal intent. George was too far away from Cadogan to be sure what part of his body George was aiming at, Fraser said, adding that the shooting could have been spontaneous and clumsy.
Fraser also found George not guilty of possession of a firearm because no evidence was provided that he did not legally own the handgun, Fraser said. However, he convicted George of violating a court bail condition not to possess a weapon.
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