A gunman and two victims are dead and 12 others are in hospital after a shooting in Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood on Sunday evening, police say.
One person killed is a woman. One of the injured, a young girl aged eight or nine, is in critical condition, according to authorities.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which probes police-involved shootings, said the suspected gunman, 29, is also dead. Police, meanwhile, are working to determine what may have led to the violence.
The Toronto police homicide squad said all families of the victims have been notified.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders urged the public to share any information they have about the shooting, including video of what happened. He said police don’t know what prompted the attack but are investigating all possibilities.
“I’m looking at every single possible motive for this,” he said. “When you have this many people struck by gunfire it’s a grave concern.”
According to the SIU, a man walking along Danforth Avenue fired at groups of people several times at about 10 p.m. ET on Sunday. Saunders said the man was armed with a handgun.
The SIU said police located the gunman on Bowden Street, near Danforth and Broadview Avenues, and an exchange of gunfire took place. The SIU said the gunman fled from the area and was found dead on Danforth Avenue.
Saunders said it’s not clear how the suspect died but no officers were injured.
Police have not said which restaurants were shot at, and they have not confirmed if the gunman was on the north or south side of Danforth.
Early Monday, investigators from the SIU were still at the scene. The SIU investigates when there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault involving police.
The SIU said six investigators and three forensic investigators have been assigned to investigate the circumstances surrounding the gunman’s death.
There was also still a heavy police presence on the Danforth. Evidence markers were laid throughout the scene.
Danforth Avenue from Carlaw to Broadview Avenues is closed to traffic as police investigate. Police said the street would be closed until noon on Monday
Toronto police’s homicide squad has taken over the investigation. It is asking witnesses, business owners and residents who may have taken videos or photos in the area around the time of the shooting to contact the unit.
Condition of most injured not known
Emergency crews were called to the scene near Danforth and Logan Avenues in Greektown, part of which is located within Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood, shortly after the shooting.
The condition of the other victims is not known yet, according to police spokesperson Mark Pugash. He said it is too early to say whether the shooting was motivated by terrorism.
Eight of the victims were taken to trauma centres in Toronto.
Police said the critically injured girl was taken to Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. Hospital spokespeople said four people were taken to St. Michael’s Hospital and three to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
Two body removal vans left the scene of the shooting early Monday.
Mayor calls shooting ‘unspeakable act’
Mayor John Tory extended condolences to the families of the victims and thanked first responders for rushing to the scene to treat the injured. He said the shooting was an “unspeakable act” and an attack on the city.
“Our entire city has been shocked by this cowardly act of violence. As I said earlier this morning at the scene, 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,” Tory told city council.
“The gun violence in any part of our city is horrible and completely unacceptable.”
Tory acknowledged that Toronto has a gun problem. He said he plans to reach out to provincial and federal officials to discuss public safety and the legality of guns. He said the city will be relentless to find out why the shooting occurred.
“In times of such horror, it is good to know that Toronto is not alone and Toronto will never be alone, and most important of all, that the people of Toronto will never be alone,” he said.
“While our city will always be resilient in the face of such attacks, it does not mean such a terrible act committed against our residents is any less painful. This is an attack against innocent families and against our entire city. This is a tragedy, another tragedy in our city this year.”
On Sunday, Tory asked anyone with information — including video surveillance footage, dashcam video or cellphone recordings — to contact police.
“Guns are too readily available to too many people,” Tory told reporters during a news conference two hours after the shooting.
“It’s almost inconceivable that these things can happen.”
Toronto Coun. Mary Fragedakis, whose ward includes Danforth Avenue, told council in tears that the victims and loved ones are in her thoughts and prayers.
“This is so heartbreaking,” she said.
A video from one witness shows a man dressed in black clothes and a black hat walking quickly and firing three shots from the sidewalk into at least one shop or restaurant.
WARNING: This video contains images that some may find disturbing
Other politicians have reacted to the shooting.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed condolences on Twitter, calling the shooting a “terrible tragedy.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale commended police and first responders in a tweet. He said his office has been in touch with the mayor’s office.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Twitter, “My heart goes out to the victims,” and thanked first responders for acting quickly.
Fragedakis, whose ward includes Danforth Avenue, tweeted, “Words cannot express my sadness over this despicable act.”
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack told CBC Toronto seasoned officers have been saying they’ve never seen anything like this.
“It’s just a terrible scene. Families enjoying themselves on the Danforth, supposed to be in a very safe area, and this happens,” he said. “It’s absolutely devastating.”
Witnesses describe chaos
Jody Steinhauer tells CBC News she was at Christina’s restaurant on the Danforth with her family when she heard what sounded like 10 to 15 blasts of firecrackers.
She said she was told to run to the back of the restaurant.
“We started to hear people scream out front,” Steinhauer said.
Carrie Lahey said she was eating dinner at 7Numbers restaurant with her boyfriend when she saw the gunman enter through a side door and shoot a woman.
“We were sitting out on the patio, and we heard shots, so we ran inside and he came in the restaurant and shot the girl right in front of me,” she said. “If we didn’t run inside at that time, we probably would have been dead right now.”
Lahey said the police treated the woman ahead of paramedics arriving to the scene.
“Thank God for the cops because the paramedics showed up so late that the cops saved her life.”
John Tulloch was getting out of his car on the Danforth when he heard gunshots.
“I thought it was fireworks at first ’cause it was a rapid fire,” he said. “We saw people starting to run in our direction. I still didn’t know what it was and then more people started running.”
Gunshots can be heard in this witness video
Andrew Van Eek, who lives in the area, said he stuck his head out the window after he heard the gunshots ring out.
“There was a lot of commotion in the street,” he said. “I saw somebody come just down the sidewalk and shoot into Demetres restaurant.”
He described the suspect as a white male, who was dressed in all black. Police have yet to provide a suspect description.
Tory said this incident hasn’t given much time for the city to heal after 10 people were killed just a few months ago in a van attack.
In April, a white van mounted a sidewalk on a busy Toronto street and ran down pedestrians.
Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., now faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.
“We were so used to living in a city where these things didn’t happen and as we saw them going on in the world around us [we] thought they couldn’t happen here,” Tory said.
“I can say to people to just try and stay calm while police try to figure out what happened here.”
On the weekend, an additional 200 police officers were deployed in various areas of the city in response to a recent spike in gun violence that officials have blamed primarily on gang activity.