Family and friends express shock at verdicts, mourn best friends killed outside Toronto nightclub

Amil Jamal (whose given name is Zemarai Khan Mohammed) and Tyler McLean appear in these undated photos. (Toronto police handout)

Hearing verdicts of manslaughter and second-degree murder for the killer who shot two unarmed friends dead outside a Toronto nightclub, and a not guilty verdict for the man who the court heard was a driver of a car that fled the scene, was almost as traumatic as losing their loved ones, family and friends of the victims told the court Monday.

In tearful testimony, witnesses described the holes left in their lives by the loss of 25-year-old Tyler McLean, a Toronto club promoter about to embark on an international business venture, and 26-year-old Zemarai Khan Mohammed, an Afghan interpreter who had dreams of joining the Canadian Forces — and also their fear from growing gun violence in Toronto.

“How can I quantify the loss, the nightmare that haunts me all day? What can I say about the man who purposefully shot my son?” said McLean’s mother, Paris Vassel.

“Have you ever been to the morgue to find your son lying on the table? Until you have, you have no idea what we are experiencing. Take a minute to imagine your own child dead, lying there. Is it too painful to consider? Yes. But it is my reality. Day in and day out. I am sentenced to this reality,” she said.

Tanade Mohamed was convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Zemarai Khan Mohammed, and manslaughter in the death of Tyler McLean. He sat still, listening from his Zoom connection at Toronto East Detention Centre, wearing an orange and blue jumpsuit. Abdisiraq Ali, his co-accused, was not part of the proceedings after being found not guilty by Ontario Superior Court Justice Peter Bawden.

On October 1, 2017, at about 1:30 in the morning, Mohamed approached two young women at a hot dog stand outside the Rebel Nightclub with McLean, according to the judgement by Justice Bawden. There was an angry exchange, and Mohamed returned to toss a water bottle in McLean’s direction. That prompted a brief scuffle that was defused by Khan Mohammed.

Ali drove Mohamed in his Durango to a parking stall two spots away from where McLean and his friends were chatting, and rushed them. Khan Mohammed punched Mohamed in the face, and Mohamed shot him in the head and then McLean in the heart.

“The bare facts of this case seem incomprehensible. The two deceased and the two accused met for the very first time at 3:03 am. They had a modest disagreement and angry remarks were exchanged. Nine minutes later, the two victims had been fatally shot and the two accused were fleeing the scene. If the entire event had not been captured on video, one would have thought it was impossible,” Bawden wrote.

Both accused fled the scene in the Durango, leading police on a high-speed chase up the Don Valley Parkway. Mohamed dumped his gun in a bush, and both looked up news about the murders and ways to clean and detail the car, Bawden wrote. Later, Mohamed denied his role in an interview with a Toronto police detective.

Bawden convicted Mohamed of second-degree murder, on the grounds that Mohamed was enraged and shot Mohammed after being punched in the face. But he convicted Mohamed of manslaughter in the death of Tyler McLean, reasoning that Mohamed had decided to flee after the first gunshot and found reasonable doubt that there was an intent to kill McLean as well.

“It is obviously most likely that he intended to kill Mr. McLean, but there are other rational inferences available including the possibility that he was firing to scare Mr. McLean so he would let go of the car,” Bawden wrote.

Bawden found that Ali didn’t know Tanade Mohamed had a gun, and asked him repeatedly what he was doing. “I am satisfied that his actions in assisting Mr. Mohamed to escape were truly actions taken after the fact rather than a continuation of the offences of aiding,” Bawden wrote.

With a guilty finding in murder, the convicted killer faces life in prison; the only question that Bawden must decide is the amount of time Mohamed must wait until he is able to apply for parole. Mohamed’s lawyer, Richard Posner, suggested 14 years without parole.

McLean’s father Hugh McLean told the court that the speed at which the slight became a murder should be a reason to consider him a dangerous offender.

“Tanade Mohamed went from zero to killer in less than 12 minutes. He shot two unarmed, innocent men. Over what? A perceived slight?” he said.

That moment was the end to the father and son’s plans to start a business with McLean as the point man in the United States, with a flight to Ireland planned for the next day. The cost of finding another man for the job was millions in equity, McLean said — an amount he’d happily pay to have his son back.

Khan Mohammed’s brother Jamal Khan told the court he and his brother worked for four years with the Canadian Forces on a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.

“Despite the danger of what we were doing, we took so much pride in helping our Canadian friends build Afghanistan,” Jamal Khan said, adding that his brother came under threat from attack or suicide bombings five times, and also navigated land mines and ambushes in Kandahar.

“He survived all of them and was given a little nickname, ‘Lucky’,” Khan told the court. “Despite the danger of what we were doing, we took so much pride in helping our Canadian friends.”

In 2010, the peacekeeping mission came to an end and the brothers were among the interpreters who were taken to Canada for their safety, Khan said. And once in Canada, both worked hard to help their parents provide for siblings, including helping two brothers graduate from law school and helping his sisters become nurses. Khan Mohammed wanted to join the Canadian military himself, Khan said.

Their parents were happy and didn’t have to worry about their safety, he said. But it was in Canada when he was shot dead.

“His life was taken away by a coward and irresponsible murderer. A son and a friend and a brother was murdered in cold blood. He wanted to protect his best friend, Tyler McLean. Our entire family was devastated when they heard about his death,” he said.

Tori Piccin, who has known McLean since he was in Grade 1, said she will remember laughing at the jokes only the two of them would get.

“He was my peace amongst all of the chaos. He was the only person who accepted me from the very beginning,” she said. “Things may look fine but nothing will ever be the same.”

Piccin was among a group of friends who created The Tyler Effect, a charitable event that seeks to raise money for victims of crime and end gun violence.

On Friday, the fourth anniversary of the murder, the CN Tower was lit yellow, white and black for the Tyler Effect.