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Questions raised about the company Drake keeps

Senior police officials are privately expressing dismay that the Toronto rapper has ignored a homicide detective’s request to encourage witnesses to step forward to help solve a friend’s killing.

Toronto police on Tuesday released a video of Anthony Soares’ slaying and appealed to Drake, above, to send out a tweet asking for people to come forward with information to help solve the murder.

Joe Scarnici / Getty Images

Toronto police on Tuesday released a video of Anthony Soares’ slaying and appealed to Drake, above, to send out a tweet asking for people to come forward with information to help solve the murder.

Two hooded and masked killers brandishing semi-automatic pistols sprayed their target with bullets as he was trapped inside a Scarborough apartment foyer waiting to be buzzed in.

The images of Anthony Soares’ brutal execution Sept. 14, captured by a surveillance camera and released last week by Toronto police, were shocking, as was the revelation that the victim was a close friend of rap superstar Drake.

No one disputes the Toronto-born rapper’s worldwide success as an international recording artist, producer and former teen actor in the TV series Degrassi: The Next Generation.

But senior police officials are privately expressing dismay that “Toronto’s biggest champion” — as a city press release called him last year — has so far ignored a homicide detective’s request to encourage witnesses to step forward to help solve his friend’s killing.

It was a case of déjà vu. Two years ago, after two people were shot to death during a Drake-hosted after-party at Muzik nightclub at Exhibition Place, the hip-hop singer was under intense pressure to denounce gun violence and appeal for witnesses.

“Drake we need your voice to help #StopTheViolence in #Toronto,” said a post from CrimeStoppers.

A statement posted 10 days later on his website was slammed on social media for not calling for an end to gun violence or urging potential witnesses to co-operate with police, fuelling online speculation that Drake wanted to keep his “street credibility” intact by not appearing to condone “snitching,” considered heresy in the hip-hop world.

Some cited the lyrics in his song “No Tellin’ ” as a possible explanation. “Yeah, police comin’ round lookin’ for some help on a case they gotta solve, we never help ’em.”

Drake has spoken against violence. In 2013, he tweeted his condolences to the family of the victims who died in a mass shooting at a barbecue on Danzig St., adding that senseless violence in Toronto has to stop.” He also rapped “told you no guns and you didn’t listen,” in a reggae tracked “No Guns Allowed.”

On Tuesday, Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Gary Giroux, who is in charge of the Soares’ homicide investigation, released the horrifying video at a news conference where he appealed to Drake to send out a tweet asking for people to come forward with information to help solve the murder.

“Many of the family members have met Drake,” the veteran cop told reporters.

“I certainly would encourage him through his tweets to encourage anybody within the community to come forward with regards to any information they have that may assist in solving his friend’s murder.”

A few days later, there was still no mention of the homicide on Drake’s Drizzy Twitter feed.

“I would hope if Drake was a real and true friend that he would encourage anyone with information that pertains to the murder of a close friend to share that information with the police with a mind to protecting the community and bring justice to the deceased’s family,” Giroux said in an emailed statement to the Star.

It wasn’t that Soares’ death went unacknowledged by Drake, born Aubrey Graham.

Soares’ photo appeared on the rapper’s Instagram account, with a message referring to him as “one of our family members.” Soares, who was 33, had a rap sheet with three gun possession convictions.

“It was a honour to have shared years together and I will always keep your memory alive,” read the post beside the photo along with Fif, Soares’ nickname.

Drake was one of the pallbears at Soares’ funeral on Saturday.

Tattoo artist Inal Bersekov posted a photo of his tattoo of the dead man’s face, writing beside it he was “honoured to pay tribute tattooing FIF on my brother,” beside Drake’s Instagram handle.

Asked to comment on Drake’s silence, Mayor John Tory said “every citizen” has a duty to help police solve crimes and keep our city safe. He pointed out a tweet was a “fairly simple request.”

Last year, Tory stood at centre court at the Air Canada Centre to “proudly award the key to the city” to Drake, saying it was recognition of his role in drawing the eyes of the world to Toronto and for his contribution “to the city’s social harmony and well-being, especially as it relates to youth.”

This year, a senior Toronto police officer, now retired, questioned why Drake had invited a young rapper who is facing firearms, assault and kidnapping charges along as his opening act on the European leg of his Boy Meets World tour.

“I find it troubling,” now retired inspector Mike Earl told the Toronto Sun. “Here’s a guy (who’s) supposed to be on bail on serious charges. Why is he permitted to leave country and tour with somebody who is a literal mentor for the city’s youth?”

Mourners outside Ogden Funeral Home in Scarborough after the funeral for Anthony Soares on Sept. 23, 2017.

Torstar News Service

Mourners outside Ogden Funeral Home in Scarborough after the funeral for Anthony Soares on Sept. 23, 2017.

The Jane and Driftwood rapper, who performs as Pressa, is 21-year-old Quinton Gardner. Last week he appeared in an online interview talking openly about his criminal history, including selling crack at his mother’s house. He returns to court Oct. 30.

In January, Drake signed rapper Baka Not Nice, a longtime member of his inner circle, to his record label, OVO Sound.

His real name is Travis Savoury, and he has convictions for armed robbery and assault. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman, drawing a six-month sentence. Procuring and human trafficking charges were dropped.

After Savoury’s release, Drake again took to Instagram.

“Something in the air today … a lot of good things happening at once. But this one means the MOST!!! Been waiting for 11 months!! Baka finally home!!!!!”

Some online commentators weren’t impressed.

“Do the Raptors know this is the company you keep?” read one posting, apparently referring to his involvement with the Toronto Raptors organization. In 2013, Drake was named the team’s “global ambassador.”

“Drake supports a domestic abuser and criminal? Maple Leaf Sports must be so proud of their Raptors ambassador. What an example for today’s youth,” wrote another anonymous poster.

A spokesperson for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment declined to comment on anything to do with Drake. Repeated attempts to contact Drake’s New York-based publicist, Melissa Nathan of Hiltzik Strategies, and his Toronto lawyers were unsuccessful.

Members of Drake’s security detail have also been accused of using heavy-handed tactics.

Toronto pop sensation Shawn Mendes “recently learned one crucial lesson: Don’t mess with Drake’s security,” People magazine’s website reported.

The 19-year-old singer recalled on the Tonight Show this month how he tried to approach Drake at a recent Toronto concert by the Weeknd.

“Next thing I know I’m in the middle of the Weeknd show with my arm hooked behind my back. Drake’s security guard has me completely at his mercy,” Mendes told host Jimmy Fallon.

Mendes said he managed to make eye contact with Drake who ordered his hulking body guard to let go of Mendes.

Two years ago, also in Toronto, an autograph seeker sued Drake alleging he had been assaulted by members of the star’s entourage. The lawsuit was “resolved” and no further details will be released, the man’s lawyer said in an email to the Star.

Last year, Matt Small, a city worker and hobby photographer, was taking pictures of the cityscape on Toronto’s Polson Pier when he came into conflict with Drake and a member of his entourage when the pair demanded he erase photos of them leaving a helicopter.

“He was in my face, saying, ‘You need to delete those pictures out of respect,’ ” Small told the Star in 2016. “I said, ‘You’re not respecting me right now, man, you’re in my face harassing me.’ ”

A family doctor, who witnessed the heated encounter, corroborated the account with the Star.

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