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‘I don’t know why this happened.’ Father of young man killed in Toronto shooting says he was a dedicated student, hard worker


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‘I don’t know why this happened.’ Father of young man killed in Toronto shooting says he was a dedicated student, hard worker

When Michael Opong Berchie left his Brampton home to meet his girlfriend on Monday night, his father didn’t know that would be the last time he’d see his son alive.

Characterized as a committed student, Berchie, 23, had just graduated university and was looking forward to a career in accounting when he was fatally shot in a car, said his father, Samuel Berchie.

“He was a very good guy and a smart guy,” Samuel told the Star. “I don’t know why this happened.”

On the night of the shooting, Berchie told his father he was going out. He planned to meet his girlfriend and take her out for dinner, but because the restaurant had no indoor dining, they were eating in the car, Samuel said.

Just after 9:45 p.m., someone fired multiple shots into their vehicle.

Police said the two suspects were last seen fleeing at high speeds in a light-coloured, four-door, compact SUV. They were travelling westbound on Lawrence Avenue West, then southbound on Dufferin Street.

Berchie suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead in the trauma centre. The condition of the other passenger is unknown.

Samuel said his son was very studious and a hard worker, who often pulled all-nighters when he studied commerce at the University of Toronto.

“My son had been drinking coffee in the night to study,” he said. “When I wake up in the morning, I see him sitting at the table studying. I say, why don’t you go to bed?”

“He said, ‘I don’t want to fail, I’ve come so far.’

Stephanie McLymont was a close friend ever since meeting Berchie in high school. “The thing that bothers me the most is that people might see (the situation) and deduce from it whatever they please,” she said.

“Anybody who knew Michael can confirm that he was such a brilliant young man and had the most upstanding integrity … he was kind and reliable and more responsible than all of us combined.”

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McLymont remembered Berchie sitting her down “like a parent” and lecturing her when he found out she wasn’t planning to continue higher education.

“Just the same way that he was striving for success for himself and really making sure to be prepared for the future, he was always encouraging all of us to do the same,” she said.

Berchie was “just one of the funniest people, one of the smartest people I know,” said Jess Montemayor, who’d known Berchie for 10 years and was one of his best friends. He saw Berchie the day before he was killed.

“It’s just surprising that that would happen to Michael. He was a good guy,” Montemayor said. “He was a student. He wasn’t really any trouble ever.”

Singer Alessia Cara of Brampton tweeted about Berchie’s death Tuesday. “Shocked,” she said. “If you went to the same school as Michael, you knew his name. He was just that guy.”

According to Montemayor, Berchie had just graduated in May and was working at the community centre with the city of Brampton.

Samuel said his son couldn’t wait for COVID-19 to be over so he could pursue his dream of being an accountant. Over the pandemic, Berchie rarely left the house.

“Anytime I come down in the morning, he’s sitting down at the computer, sometimes playing video games,” he said. “I came down this morning (and he wasn’t there). Then it hit me. I’ve been crying all day now.

“But what can I do? Everywhere in this city it’s not safe.”

Addressing his son’s killers, Samuel said “hopefully we get those perpetrators and they put them into jail forever. If they go to jail, I can’t get Michael back. But at least the streets will be safe.”

Montemayor and several other friends have started a GoFundMe to raise funds for the funeral and other expenses. They’re hoping to raise $25,000 for the family. By Wednesday evening, they surpassed their fundraising goal by over $1,000.

Kevin Jiang is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Reach him via email: [email protected]

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