TORONTO — A grieving sister is fighting for answers in the death of her 19-year-old brother, who she says died after being struck by a “ghost gun” while working in Toronto’s troubled tow truck industry.
Nadezhda Simova has done her own detective work, unearthing a photo of a gun she says her brother Peter Simov texted to friends shortly before his death — a gun she alleges in a lawsuit was given to him by his employer, Paramount Towing.
“I just fell on the floor. I was crying,” she recalled of the moment she found out her brother had died. “It was very painful….when they tell you you should go home and wait for the detective to come and speak to you, it’s the worst thing.”
Simov was found dead in December 2019 on Champagne Drive in North York. The family’s memorial still stands outside that lot, with photos of Simov in better times.
Police say the gunshot wound was self-inflicted and that it could have been an accident.
But authorities are pursuing the gun that was allegedly involved, targeting a previously convicted gun runner and arresting him at the border.
In an interview, Det Sgt Robert DiDanieli said that man, Jeffrey Gilmour, purchased 42 guns legally in Florida. Police have recovered 8 in Canada, he said, at locations from Simov’s truck all the way to a mansion in York region that police raided last summer to find a massive underground casino.
“You see the misery that guns cause to people,” he said. “If you put the gun into the hands of someone who is going to use it for those purposes, you bear some responsibility for this.”
He said police are pursuing a charge of criminal negligence causing death against Gilmour — a Canadian first, he said — just as authorities would prosecute a bar for overserving someone before they drove home and crashed.
“Once you get everything falling into place, this is a charge we could be seeing every couple of weeks,” DiDanieli said.
Former homicide detective Mark Mendelson says it’s a tragic death — and this approach of making smugglers responsible for the crimes their guns commit could be a new way of holding them accountable.
“What the police are interested in is who gave him the gun, where did that gun come from and why was he given that gun in the first place?” Mendelson said.
Simova said she doesn’t believe that Simov would have wanted to kill himself — and doesn’t buy the accident theory either.
She says her younger brother was someone she could share anything with. He wanted to be a pilot and so he was saving money by guarding trucks, she said.
But after he took the job in December 2019, she said she started learning more about the industry, discovering the arson, vandalism and shootings — even a murder charge that has been working its way through the courts.
“I started reading the news articles. I told him that if anything ever happens you have to start that car and leave, that’s it,” Simova told CTV News Toronto.
At this point, at least a dozen police officers have been charged or suspended in connection with the industry as well.
“Organized crime has gotten its tentacles into this industry in a huge way,” Mendelson said.
Simov sent a text to his girlfriend with the picture of a gun that he claimed his employer had offered him, his sister said.
Her lawsuit says that police informed the family that the firearm with which Peter was shot was found in his vehicle, and it was not registered — a “ghost gun.” It also alleges that the employer failed to exercise due care and attention.
“The employer knew or ought to have known that Peter did not have a firearms licence or any training in handling firearms, and ought not to have offered the firearm to Peter,”
There has been no statement of defence filed by the defendants, Alexander Vinogradsky and Paramount Towing. CTV News called the company a number of times but has not heard back.
Simova says there needs to be a lot of changes made to the industry, and the province should consider reducing the cutthroat competition for cars by regulating it.
The province has had a tow truck task force for several months now, with the provincial government telling CTV News Toronto that its work is in the “final stages.”