The last time we checked in on Rob Ford — and who isn't checking in on the latest from Toronto's (alleged!) crack-smoking mayor these days? — reports out of city hall had Ford telling his staff "not to worry" about a video of him smoking that crack, that he knew the exact location of the apartment where the tape had been stashed. Well, turns out that apartment — complete with a runaway renter and a mayoral doppelgänger named Slurpy — reflects a seedy underbelly of the scandal, with gang in-fighting over politics, vanishing evidence that could bring down a mayor who refuses to go away, and the increasingly grisly truth about a sideshow turned Canadian nightmare.
The National Post's Megan O'Toole visited unit 1703 on 320 Dixon Road in northwest Toronto, the current or former hiding place of the most famous video of a politician doing drugs that one one, except now at least three people, has ever seen. That's the apartment number Ford reportedly blurted out during a staff meeting on the day the scandal broke. The complex is shady, to be sure, which you might expect of the building at the center of a crack-cocaine story, especially with recent drunken shooting on the floor in question. O'Toole said she saw the bullet holes, and she went looking to solve the rumor that a group of Somali drug dealers possess the video, that one of Ford's staffers told police that people may have killed for the video, and that the murder of Anthony Smith, a man who (allegedly!) knew about the video, all led back to Apartment 1703.
This one reporter's findings fit all three narratives, which makes you wonder what investigators could find out — and whatever happened to that damn video everyone wants to see. The man O'Toole found living in the apartment mysteriously called someone as soon as she began asking about the video:
The man on the other end of the phone sounds relaxed, friendly. He says his name is Jon, and he is a friend of this tenant. He believes the video may have been stashed inside unit 1703 at some point by a group of young Somali men who "have keys."
The rumor of Somali drug bosses holding the video? Still alive.
But that doesn't explain why a group of Somali men have keys to an apartment that doesn't seem to belong to them. The resident of Apartment 1703, who wished to remain anonymous, didn't really elaborate on the connection between himself, his friends on the phone, and the alleged group of Somalis with access to his apartment. But he did rattle off a bunch of crazy suggestions, which include his having watched the video. O'Toole writes:
[T]he man issues a number of claims: that, while he does not know its current whereabouts, he has viewed the alleged video and believes it to be authentic; that he has seen other more innocuous footage of Mayor Ford "hanging out" in the neighbourhood; that Somali gang members who support the mayor are angry at the video’s sellers; and that he and his friends briefly considered making a fraudulent crack video starring an acquaintance and Rob Ford lookalike nicknamed "Slurpy," in an attempt to discredit the real thing.
Wait, what? The unnamed man in the apartment saw the video — so that's one more person other Gawker's John Cook and the Toronto Star reporter who claim that this thing actually exists. And there's more video of Ford in the neighborhood. But this man is also part of a pro-Ford cabal, which includes another man who looks like Ford but is actually named Slurpy and exists inside of a Somali gang? And they wanted to make a propaganda bootleg of a crack video to boost the mayor's credibility again? Who knew the shifty politics of discrediting scandal went all the way up to a druggy apartment complex? Maybe it doesn't, but the apartment resident, who O'Toole reports is Jamaican, just up and disappeared as soon as her reporting was done:
Reached Thursday by telephone, his friend, Jon, says the man "packed a bag" and left unit 1703, at least temporarily, amid the intense public focus on that address. While he maintains his friend has no direct involvement in the production or safekeeping of the alleged crack video, Jon says: "It’s becoming his problem."
The new rumor of the Somali gang politics and the crack video viewer on the lam? It is born.
Questions still remain over whether the video of Ford is connected to the death of Smith — the lawyer for one of the men arrested in the killing now tells The Toronto Sun that Ford's name "never came up" in court, and sources tell the Star that the murder was "street level stuff." But everything connected to Ford has become connected to a widening national embarrassment. "The mockery Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford have made of public service is an obscenity," ," reads a column from the Star's Rosie DiManno today. "Please, please, for the love of God, go away." The Globe and Mail's editorial board echoed that sentiment: "Mr. Ford's loss of credibility is not his problem alone. It's the city's. It has important issues to take care of, from transit to labour costs, and difficult negotiations to be done with the province, whose premier has just declared that he needs to deal with his 'personal problems.'" Ford, in a brief press conference Thursday afternoon, insisted that he's "not stepping aside," and that he "can't wait" to run for re-election.