Last night, Gawker identified the house in Toronto's Etobicoke neighborhood that was the backdrop for a photo of mayor Rob Ford standing with two men who were later gunned down in a gangland-style shooting. Days after we published that photo—along with an account of having watched a video of Ford smoking crack cocaine—a resident of that home and his girlfriend were attacked by a man wielding a metal pipe, who had come looking for the video, Gawker has learned.
We have also learned that the video of Ford smoking crack cocaine was recorded inside that home on the same day the photo was taken.
The home, at 15 Windsor Rd., was identified last night in separate reports by Gawker, the Toronto Star, and the Globe and Mail. According to the Star, it is owned by an elderly retiree named Lina Basso and occupied by her children Mario Basso, 40; Fabio Basso, 45; and Elena Basso, 51. Citing residents familiar with the home, the Star reported that Fabio Basso and Ford "knew each other from high school."
The Star and Globe and Mail both reported that, according to neighbors, the Basso home has been a frequent site of suspected drug activity for years—a crackhouse, essentially. "Four neighbours from different houses," the Star wrote, "told the Star that they have for years had concerns of drug activity at number 15. They say the house seems to be the centre for drug activity spilling over from the nearby apartments and that young men have been seen coming and going from the house."
A source who knows both Basso and Ford tells Gawker that the men are longtime friends, and that Ford has been a frequent visitor to 15 Windsor over the years. According to this source, the video of Ford smoking crack was recorded there at some point six to eight months ago during one of Ford's "binges." "He's been doing it for years," the source said of Ford's trip to the house. "They go down in the basement and party." The source said he would frequently hear Fabio complain, after Ford's visits, "Rob and my sister kept me up all night."
On the day the video was recorded, the source said, Basso's mother was out of town. Ford came over, and "some kids from the neighborhood"—by which the source meant the nearby housing complex at 320 Dixon Rd. where Ford would later tell his staff he believed the video was being stored—were called over to supply the group with crack. At one point, the group—which included Anthony Smith and Muhammad Khattak, who were later shot in March outside a Toronto nightclub—asked Ford for a picture. (I should note here that one of our sources on this story has repeatedly insisted that Smith was not personally involved in the drug trade.)
When Fabio objected to a photograph being taken inside his home, someone suggested they go outside. "Ford ran outside like a schoolgirl to have that picture taken," the source, who was not present but heard about the evening's events later, told Gawker.
Flash forward to last month, after Gawker broke the story of the video and published the photo. On or about Friday, May 17, the source said—the day after we published the story—two large men knocked on Fabio's door. "They told him that he needed to get the kid who sold them the crack that night to come back to the house," the source said. "That he needed to induce him to come over." Fabio reached the dealer, who told him that he was out of town, in Windsor, Ontario, and would not be coming over. (Gawker was aware that the owner of the videotape had indeed left Toronto in the immediate aftermath of the story; this detail had not to our knowledge been previously made public.)
The men returned to 15 Windsor on several occasions over the next few days, the source said, trying to get Fabio to lure the dealer back to his house. After attempting to cooperate without success, the source said, Fabio told the men to stop dropping by. "He told them, 'Look, leave me alone,'" the source said. "'This is my mother's house. Rob got himself into this situation. It's his problem, not mine.'"
Several days later, the source said, one of the men returned to Fabio's house, forced his way through the door, and beat Fabio and Fabio's girlfriend with a steel pipe. "He spent the night at [nearby Etobicoke General Hospital]," the source said. A photograph of Fabio (at left) published this morning by the Star doesn't show any visible injuries.
Last night, both the Star and the Globe and Mail reported that police cars were spotted at 15 Windsor Rd. on the evening of Tuesday, May 21—five days after the crack video story broke—in response to an "armed home invasion." This morning, Toronto Police Department spokesperson Mark Pugash confirmed to Gawker that on that evening, at approximately 11 p.m., officers responded to an "assault in progress" at 15 Windsor Rd. "A male forced his way into the house and assaulted two people with a weapon," Pugash said. "The suspect fled on foot, and two victims were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. No arrests have been made, and the investigation continues." Asked if the department believed the assault to be connected to Mayor Rob Ford, Pugash replied: "We don't speculate." He also declined to identify the victims.
A spokesman for Ford did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and nobody answered the phone at a number associated with the Basso residence. At the time our source relayed the story above to us yesterday, none of the details that were subsequently corroborated—the location of the house, the name and relationships of the owners and residents of the house, the fact and details of the May 21 assault, and the fact that the owner of the video had fled Toronto immediately after the story broke—had been made public.
Another detail, gleaned from comments on a Toronto web site that pre-date the breaking of the crack story, also tends to corroborate the source's story. On March 26, Toronto blogger Toronto Mike linked to a podcast with Star reporter Kevin Donavan discussing a recent Star report about Ford's public drunkenness at an event. A commenter going by the name "Rinse" responded to the post with the following:
Here's the thing: Rob Ford DOES use crack cocaine. A friend of mine, her mother is a serious drug addict. Rob Ford regularly goes over to her house to smoke crack.
The problem is this: The daughter wants to expose Rob Ford's drug abuse, but her oldschool Italian grandmother won't allow her to "bring shame" upon the family, long story short. So basically the daughter has become complicit with the entire thing instead of doing the right thing. Shame on you Jasmin.
As commenters on Reddit pointed out last night, an Elio Basso passed away in 2009. His obituary described him as "Beloved husband of Lina. Loving father of Enzo, Elena, Fabio and Mario. Cherished Nonno of Jasmine and Lisa."
Update: The CBC reports that the victims in the attack were "a 31-year-old female and a 44-year-old male" and that they "suffered minor injuries, including a cut on the left cheek and a blow to the head." (The Star has Fabio's age as 45.)
Second Update: This post originally referred at two points to the "night the video was taken." That was written in haste; the video I saw actually appears to have been shot during daylight.
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[Photo of Basso via Toronto Star]