The Special Investigations Unit has released the name of the gunman in a deadly Sunday night shooting in Toronto that killed a child and a teenager, and injured 13 others.
"Due to the exceptional circumstances of this tragic incident and the public interest in knowing the man’s identity, the SIU is identifying the man as Faisal Hussain of Toronto," a press release put out by the SIU Monday evening said.
A post-mortem for Hussain is scheduled for Tuesday morning in Toronto.
"We are at a terrible loss for words but we must speak out to express our deepest condolences to the families who are now suffering on account of our sons horrific actions," said a statement issued by Hussain's family sent to media.
"Our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life. The interventions of professionals were unsuccessful. Medications and therapy were unable to treat him. While we did our best to seek help for him throughout his life of struggle and pain, we could never imagine that this would be his devastating and destructive end," the statement read.
Here’s what we know and do not know so far about the Sunday night attack:
- Police have identified the 18-year-old victim as Reese Fallon of Toronto.
- A 10-year-old girl from the Greater Toronto Area was also killed. The family has asked that her identity not be released.
- 13 more people were injured — one more than had been previously reported — and were admitted to hospitals across the city.
- The alleged shooter, 29-year-old Faisal Hussain, exchanged gunfire with police, before he was located deceased. It's unclear how he died.
- Police say the attacker used a handgun.
- The motive of the shooter is unclear.
At an apartment building in Toronto's Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood where Hussain's family allegedly lives, children and their parents played outside on the mild summer night. They ran around communal green space and park benches outside of the group of apartment buildings. Two women said they had no idea that the police were in their building, guarded by a security official in a white button-up shirt. Forensics officers entered the building for the first time at around 6:30 p.m.
A number of people who lived in Hussain’s building and neighbouring buildings told VICE News that the family had endured intense hardship for years. They said Hussain’s father long suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was quite ill. There were four children in the family, however his sister died in a car accident. His one brother was, at least until recently, in the hospital due to a coma and had severe brain damage. Hussain himself had suffered from mental illness for years, they said.
"Our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life."
Khalid Malik, a man in his early 60s wearing sunglasses, said he has lived in the building across the road for the last 14 years. He told a group of reporters that he knew Hussain and his parents.
“Honest to God, this is unbelievable,” he told VICE News upon hearing the identity of the Danforth shooter. “He’s harmless. He’s a skinny guy.” He said Hussain worked at Shoppers Drug Mart and he would often see him carrying home groceries.
Another man, Mirza Baig, says he has lived in the same building that Hussain did for the last 12 years. “I never saw him socialize,” he said, adding that he sometimes saw him and members of his family in the elevator.
Earlier on Monday, Toronto Mayor John Tory called for stricter gun control, denouncing the city's "gun problem" and asking, “why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?”
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
“I’m of course angry as we all are that someone would carry out such an attack which really amounts to an attack on our city itself. Gun violence in any part of our city is horrible and completely unacceptable,” Mayor Tory told Toronto City Council on Monday morning. “I’ve said for sometime that the city has a gun problem in that guns are far too readily available to far too many people.”
He added that he would like to meet with provincial and federal leaders as soon as possible to discuss public safety matters including gun safety. A meeting did in fact occur in his office later in the day with Premier Doug Ford, Police Chief Mark Saunders and Bill Blair, the newly appointed federal minister of border security who was formerly Toronto's police chief.
Toronto Police Chief Saunders held a midday press conference in which he again appealed to those who were at the Danforth scene to provide any information, photos, and videos. He did not provide any new details on the shooter or investigation, sayind that "we do not know why this happened yet" and that the investigation is still "very fluid" at this point."
"I'm not going to invite any type of speculation. I'm not in the comfort zone of doing that," Saunders said.
"Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?"
The lead homicide investigator in the case, Detective Sergeant Terry Browne, warned the media and people on social media to be cautious once the shooter's name is released. And he said that the police are looking to obtain a search warrant for a residence as part of the investigation.
The Ontario Special Investigations Unit, a civilian oversight body that probes all incidents involving police that result in serious injury or death, has assigned six investigators and two forensics officers to the case. In a press conference earlier in the day, it confirmed the shooter had sustained a gunshot wound, but would not say how.
Under current Canadian laws, gun license applicants must disclose any history with mental health issues over the last five years. Someone granted authorization to purchase either a prohibited or restricted gun also is granted an authorization to transport the firearm for specific purposes.
Last month, the federal government passed a gun control law that sought to beef up gun control measures, but advocates say that will still leave “significant loopholes.” The Liberals had vowed to crack down on gun violence as part of their election campaign.
Bill C-71 will be debated at the Senate this fall, however it will not reinstate the long-gun registry that was scrapped by the previous Conservative government. The proposed law includes measures that would require further background checks for prospective gun owners, beyond the five-year background checks under the current law, and would reinstate requirements that gun vendors track sales for 20 years. It would also impose new restriction on firearm transportation abilities.
There has been a 30 percent rise in crimes involving guns across the country, according to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
"They tried to bring her back to life. They tried very hard for half an hour, but she never came [back]."
Just last week, Toronto police deployed an additional 200 officers to patrol the streets during the evenings and on weekends throughout the summer.
And they seem to be cracking down: police have made a number of gun-related arrests in seizures across the city in recent weeks. On Saturday, the day before the Danforth shooting, Toronto police were patrolling the Eglinton Avenue West and Dufferin Street area and arrested and charged a man with a number of weapons offences, including possessing a firearm with an altered serial number.
That same night, officers also charged a 21-year-old man with firearm offences including possessing a firearm without a license and possessing a prohibited weapon.
The day after
Monday evening, as the Danforth reopened, about 50 residents gathered by the fountain at Alexander Parkette where the shooting happened less than 24 hours earlier.
They were mostly silent, solemn. Only the sound of the fountain bubbling and murmurs of conversation could be heard. One young woman held a yellow sign offering “free hugs.”
Residents filtered past the park, leaving flowers, candles, a Greek flag.
On Monday morning, a heavy police presence remained at the scene as officers continued to investigate along Danforth Avenue, marking bullet casings on the sidewalks. Around them, residents reckoned with what happened the night before. People gathered across from the yellow police tape that closed off parts of the street.
Around 10 p.m. Danforth resident Panaziotis Fetsisk heard sounds, which he assumed were gunshots near Logan and Danforth. “It was about 20 different times,” he told VICE News. First he heard 10 shots, then there was a pause, then about 10 more shots. “Somebody told me it started from Christina’s restaurant.”
People were running to hide, seeking shelter where they could. “It was a panic,” said Fetsisk.
He went toward the scene and saw people screaming. Paramedics, police were everywhere. He saw a young woman on the ground.
“They tried to bring her back to life. They tried very hard for half an hour, but she never came [back].”
He saw another young man, about 18, with blood all over his leg. And he saw another woman on the street who was injured. Then police pushed the crowd back so he didn’t see anything else. “I don’t feel good at all.”
Simone Lawrence, owner of Simone’s Caribbean, said she was closing up after dinner last night when she saw police cruisers fly down the street with their lights on but sirens off. One of her servers said she heard a single popping sound, but Lawrence told her, “come on, in this neighbourhood?”
She saw a woman crying on the street because she couldn’t get ahold of her daughter, she wasn’t answering her phone. Lawrence said people on the street tried to comfort her, until her family moved in the direction of a restaurant on the strip, trying to find out more.
Fetsisk is worried about what could happen at the upcoming Taste of the Danforth, an outdoor street festival that draws tens of thousands of people every summer. “Now we have a big problem here. We’re losing people, we’re losing lives.”
The Danforth attack is the second mass casualty incident to occur in Toronto since April, when a van mounted a curb and plowed into pedestrians along a busy street north of the downtown core.
Alek Minassian, 25, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. A Facebook page linked to Minassian cited the so-called incel or “involuntary celibate” community, a misogynistic online group that has called for violence against women.
Peter Tabuns, the NDP MPP for the Toronto-Danforth district told CBC on Monday morning that it’s difficult to know how to prevent these atrocities without further information. “It is useless to speculate at this point,” said Tabus, who called for a sense of calm among Torontonians. “Having more officers is probably useful,” he said. But he added that without addresses the “root causes” of violence, including lack of affordable housing and poverty, then it won’t be a long-term solution. “We need to address the root causes. Do the analysis as to what’s driving this, and then get at those root causes … clearly there needs to be control of access to guns,” he said.
Cover image of Toronto mayor John Tory and Police Chief Mark Saunders during press following a mass casualty event. Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press