The man in black prowled for targets on Toronto’s bustling Danforth Avenue at 10 p.m. Sunday, pistol in hand.
He shot at groups of people, witnesses said, then melted away in a frantic zigzag down the street. Victims were sprawled inside businesses as strangers gave first aid to strangers along a glass-pocked scene over hundreds of yards.
The police caught up to him. A gunfight ensued, authorities said, and the man fled down an alley. He was later found dead.
An 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl were killed, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters on Monday, and 13 others were wounded. The victims ranged in age from 10 to 59. The slain 18-year-old was identified as Reese Fallon, a recent high school graduate who was to attend McMaster University in the fall, the Associated Press reported.
The motive for the shootings was not clear. Authorities identified the shooter as Faisal Hussain, 29, of Toronto, the AP reported. No motive has been ruled out, including terrorism, Saunders said.
Video posted on the Internet reportedly shows the gunman firing at least three shots toward a business.
Other video recorded sounds of gunshots echoing off buildings in an area of restaurants and shops known as Greektown. Saunders described the avenue as “one of the busiest streets in the country.”
It was not immediately clear whether the gunman was shot by police or whether he killed himself.
Saunders declined to discuss that portion of the investigation, telling reporters that Ottawa’s Special Investigations Unit is mandated to probe officer-involved incidents. Monica Hudon, an SIU spokeswoman, told reporters that an autopsy will be performed Tuesday to determine the cause of death.
Five patients arrived at St. Michael’s Hospital in serious condition, three needing immediate lifesaving surgery, acting medical director Najma Ahmed told reporters Monday. All five are still being treated, she said.
Witnesses said that he fired into businesses and at people on the street along Danforth Avenue, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
“It was a very rapid and fluid incident,” Detective Sgt. Terry Browne, the lead homicide investigator, told reporters. “We have several scenes within the scene.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory called the shooting a “despicable act” targeting innocents.
“While our city will always be resilient in the face of such attacks, it does not mean such a cowardly act committed against our residents is any less painful,” Tory tweeted.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered his condolences Monday.
“The people of Toronto are strong, resilient and brave — and we’ll be there to support you through this difficult time,” he wrote on Twitter, in both English and French.
Ontario lawmakers took to social media en masse to comment on the shooting rampage.
Jill Andrew, who represents Toronto in the provincial parliament, thanked first responders, along with trauma specialists who will be tasked with helping grieving families cope with the killings.
The attack shattered an otherwise peaceful night in Greektown, a name stemming from the inhabitants who filled the neighborhood after World War II.
The area, with its mix of restaurants, is the scene of the popular Taste of the Danforth festival, a yearly three-day food and entertainment event in August that pulls in more than 1.5 million visitors, according to its website.
Tanya Wilson heard the gunshots and walked up the stairs of her business, Skin Deep Tattoo Studio. She told the Globe and Mail that two frightened gunshot victims pleaded for help. She shut the door behind them and turned off the lights.
“There was quite a bit of blood coming from both of their legs,” she said.
Wilson said she was well-equipped with surgical gloves and gauze. She used an extension cord and strips of clothes as makeshift tourniquets, trying to calm the victims about a block from where the shooter was found dead.
Andrew Van Eek, who lives near the scene of the shooting, told the CBC that he stuck his head out of his window after the gunfire started.
“There was a lot of commotion in the street,” he told the CBC. “I saw somebody come just down the sidewalk and shoot into Demetres restaurant.”
Another witness told CTV that he estimated that the gunman fired about 20 shots.
“And then, I saw the carnage as I ran down the street here to kind of follow the gunfire,” he told the station. “I saw at least four people shot.”
Jody Steinhauer was strolling into a restaurant on Sunday night with her partner, two sets of grandparents and her children. It was her birthday celebration, she told Radio New Zealand. But when the party was entering the establishment, they suddenly heard what sounded like firecrackers. Restaurant staff ordered everyone to the back of the room. Get down, they said.
“All you could hear was screaming,” Steinhauer recalled. “There was a woman coming in off the street yelling, ‘Help me! Help me!’ She had been shot in the leg.”
The woman was taken into the back of the room and stabilized on a bench. “Thank goodness there was a doctor in the restaurant,” Steinhauer said.
The gunman was found dead four doors down from where Steinhauer and her family were hiding, she said.
“It’s just terrifying,” she said. “Toronto is a very safe city, with a lot of people from a lot of cultures. But who knows what really happened. Time will tell.”
It has been a violent year for Toronto. In April, 25-year-old Alek Minassian allegedly mowed down pedestrians in a shopping district with a van, leaving 10 dead and dozens injured. Minassian is facing 10 counts of first-degree murder.
But the latest deadly shooting also comes as Toronto has witnessed an increase in gun violence over the summer months. Eleven people were shot in a span of seven days at the end of June, the CBC reported. As of July 16, there have been 220 shootings in the city in 2018, police department statistics show. Gun-related fatalities this year are up 50 percent from 2017, according to the BBC.
The violence has sparked considerable public outcry. In response to the pressure, the city launched a $15 million “gun violence reduction plan” last week. Under the proposal, an additional 200 police officers have been deployed on Toronto streets in targeted areas between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. This will continue for the remainder of the summer.
In his brief comments Monday morning, Tory, the mayor, reiterated that the Danforth shooting was “evidence of a gun problem” in the city.
“Guns are too readily available to too many people,” he said.
Brian Murphy contributed to this report.
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