MISSISSAUGA — An auto shop owner killed in a series of shootings this week was remembered as a doting father, caring community member and talented cricketer on Wednesday as loved ones and strangers came together to to mourn him at his funeral.
Shakeel Ashraf was shot dead in his auto shop in Milton, Ont., on Monday afternoon after a suspect fatally shot a Toronto police officer in Mississauga, Ont., earlier in the day.
Those who knew Ashraf, and some who didn’t, packed a Mississauga mosque on Wednesday afternoon to pay their respects to the 38-year-old.
“He was a very loving father, a very caring father, and he loved what he did. He also loves cricket,” Muhammad Umar, one of Ashraf’s friends, said outside the mosque.
“It’s a great loss for us, losing a friend, and for the community, losing a wonderful human being.”
During the ceremony, people were asked to stand close together to greet the crowds which filled several rooms in the building after people lined up to enter.
Imam Mohammed Riyad, of a mosque in Milton, spoke briefly during the service at the request of the family. He said he knew Ashraf well and was with him on the day of the murder.
He noted the huge turnout – which he estimated in the hundreds – and messages of condolence shared online as good signs that show how exceptional Achraf was.
“He must be a special man,” he said. “He had an incredible heart, a beautiful soul.”
Imam Nafis Bhayat of the Mississauga Mosque said that Ashraf’s relatives testified that he was a very nice man. Before leading a prayer, he spoke of the shock the family must feel at their sudden and unexpected loss.
“It’s a moment of reflection. It’s very, very difficult,” he said. “His life was taken away very early.”
Ashraf’s skills as a cricketer and mechanic were common themes among those who remembered him on Wednesday.
Faizal Niaz, one of Ashraf’s friends, said he was a highly skilled mechanic who was trusted by the community.
“He’s a big shot. That’s why people know him very well,” he said of his close friend, whom he described as humble but charitable and generous with his money and talents. .
Waseem Ahmed, president of the Islamic Propagation Center of Ontario, where the funeral was taking place, said Achraf was highly respected and noted that the man’s family was devastated by what he called an “act senseless violence”.
“They are starting to absorb this, looking at the family member for the first time after the incident,” Ahmed said after Ashraf’s coffin, draped in green cloth, arrived at the mosque.
He called on politicians to address the root causes of violence in communities.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie was at the funeral and said she wanted to mourn with the community.
“I’m so devastated by the turn of events that started here in Mississauga,” she said, noting that Ashraf lives in the city.
In brief remarks, Crombie said the tragedies “shouldn’t have happened” and said more needed to be known about the alleged killer’s motives. But she said Wednesday’s events should focus on Ashraf’s memory.
“Today we are here to mourn and honor a great man in our community.”
The suspect in Monday’s attacks died later in the day after a shootout with police at a Hamilton cemetery.
Niaz said the suspect allegedly worked for Ashraf for a short time earlier this year, but was released.
Niaz said many who knew Ashraf had questions about how the suspect was able to evade police after killing an officer in Mississauga before driving to the Milton auto shop.
“Our friend is dead,” he said. “Who is going to (be) responsible?”
const. Andrew Hong, a 22-year veteran of the Toronto police, was shot dead in Mississauga earlier Monday in what police said was an ambush.
Toronto police spokeswoman Stephanie Sayer said a condolence book for Hong will be made available to the public in person and online. Sayer said planning for Hong’s funeral is currently underway and the force is working closely with his family regarding their wishes.
Three of Hong’s colleagues attended Ashraf’s funeral in uniform.
Det. Mansoor Ahmad said he and his colleagues came to show their support on behalf of the police force for the loss of Ashraf, whom he called a “great Canadian citizen”.
“We support the community, we are the community,” Ahmad said. “Today we are here to support the family.”
Ahmad said he didn’t know Ashraf well, but played cricket against him and was impressed with his skills.
“He wasn’t just a good player, he was a good human being,” he said.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 14, 2022.