Two dead, 13 injured after mass shooting in Toronto
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada
Two victims are dead and 12 other people are injured after a man opened fire on a busy stretch of Toronto Sunday night in what the city's mayor is calling an "almost inconceivable" event.
Police exchanged gunfire with the 29-year-old suspect, who then fled and was located deceased in the area, according to the province's Special Investigations Unit.
It's unclear how he died, or what motivated him to start shooting in the direction of restaurants and crowds of people lining Danforth Avenue, near Logan. His identity has not been released. Police said he was armed with a handgun.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is expected to hold a press conference updating the media Monday morning.
Paramedics described it as a “truly difficult mass casualty incident”, one that drew a huge response from police, fire and paramedics. One of the victims is a woman. As of early Monday morning, a young girl had been in critical condition in hospital. The other victims had also been taken to hospital.
The shooting occurred around 10 p.m. in a busy residential neighbourhood lined with restaurants and patios.
A video appears to capture the shooter as he walks down the street, turns and points a gun and starts firing.
Toronto Police Chief Saunders said he is not ruling out any motive at this point. “I’m not calling it random. This person was here, and he definitely shot, I don’t know why he did what he did,” he told reporters at a press conference at the scene of the shooting.
Mayor John Tory, who described the shooting as "almost inconceivable," urged people not to draw conclusions about what occurred and to allow the police to do their job. But he addressed what has been an alarming rate of gun violence in Toronto.
“We have a gun problem, guns are too readily available to too many people,” he said. “We need to address that.”
There have been more than 220 shooting incidents in Toronto so far this year, a number that is outpacing previous years. The city has responded by deploying 200 police officers into "priority" neighbourhoods.
Officers from the Emergency Task Force unit responded, along with Toronto Fire, paramedics, and uniformed police officers. Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, which probes any incident involving police that results in serious injury or death, has assigned six investigators and three forensics officers to the incident.
Warning: graphic video
One witness told CP24 that he was having a beer with friends when they heard shots ring out.
“I saw seven people on the ground, three girls and two guys inside were eating at the restaurant,” said the man, who was not identified by the news channel. “We were having beers inside, we just heard everything, so everyone was running back to the back.”
Another witness, Andrew Mantzios, told the Globe and Mail he saw the man open fire at a crowd of people at an intersection before shooting a woman who had stumbled on the street point blank.
Dale Moser having dinner at the Auld Spot on Danforth and Hampton with a friend when ten shots rang out near them. At first, like most people, Moser didn’t fully grasp what was happening—that confusion quickly changed when a woman on the patio screamed that a nearby man had a gun.
“When you hear the shots you think, at first, that it’s fireworks or car backfiring but when you hear them in succession you think ‘oh my god, this is another attack,’” Moser old VICE. “There was a couple sitting out front and they jumped and ran to the back and everyone ran with them.”
“It was so loud like bang, bang, bang, bang… it’s one of those things where it happened so fast that you don’t remember a lot, but I remember there being a lot of shots.”
Quickly, Moser and his friend made their way to the kitchen of the restaurant where Robin Hughes and Anthony Wills were working. The two cooks told VICE that clientele of the restaurant made their way to the back quickly and the Auld Spot was soon locked down, with the front garage door pulled down, quickly.
“I didn’t actually see him but other people saw him walk past the patio,” said Hughes. “After that we just went into full lockdown.”
“At first there was a lot of confusion, we weren’t too sure what was happening but it slowly dawned on us that ‘that was a gun. There were two people that were shot in the leg and they managed to make it safely into the tattoo parlor right next to the restaurant.”
At around one in the morning City Councilors Mary Fragedakis and Paula Fletcher walked out of the crime scene after meeting with Mayor Tory. Fletcher, speaking to media, reiterated Tory’s notion that Toronto has a gun problem.
“The mayor told me that it definitely wasn’t a gang related shooting and that we have to do something about guns. We have a gun problem in the city of Toronto,” said Councillor Fletcher. “Why do we need handguns within the city limits?”
The councillors greeted two activists waiting by the police tape outside of the crime scene. Here they hugged Joan Howard, an anti-violence activist in the city, who lost her son to a shooting in the area in 2003.
“This is so terrible to hear,” Howard said. "I walk the Danforth, I eat at the Danforth. To hear this is devastating. So my sympathy go out to the families tonight because I know what they’re going through.”
“It’s time to say enough is enough. Toronto is not a safe city anymore.”
Cover image: Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press