A 10-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman were killed in Toronto’s vibrant Greektown when a man went on a shooting spree down one of the city’s busiest streets, police said Monday as they tried to determine what prompted the attack.
Police Chief Mark Saunders did not speculate on the motive for Sunday night’s rampage, which also injured 13 people between the ages of 10 and 59. Authorities said the suspected gunman fled the area on foot and was later found dead with a gunshot wound.
“We do not know why this happened yet,” Saunders told a news conference. “The investigation itself is very fluid, it is very new, it’s going to take some time.”
The names of the two people who died were not released.
The suspected gunman moved methodically down a bustling stretch of Danforth Avenue on Sunday night, spraying bullets at unsuspecting bystanders and eventually exchanging fire with officers.
By Monday morning, several blocks in the heart of the neighbourhood known as Greektown were surrounded by yellow police tape and nearly all local businesses were closed. Many of those who witnessed the shooting recounted the chaos of the attack.
Lenny Graf, who had been dining at a local restaurant, said he was watching his nine-year-old son and a friend play around a nearby fountain when the shooting began around 10 p.m.
“My first instinct was to try and find Jason and I saw him crouched behind the fountain and I noticed that the gunman had finished shooting there and was walking away,” he said. “I grabbed Jason and I took him into the alleyway. We ran to the back of restaurant to see that Jason’s friend was in there safe and so was my wife.”
Valia Dsaliou, who works at a Greek-language radio station in the area, said the close-knit community is reeling.
“It’s like a small village for us,” she said of the area. “This is something that we couldn’t even imagine would happen, but it happened. But we don’t know why or what all this is supposed to mean to us.”
Witnesses had posted many photos and videos online, including a clip that appears to show a man, clad in black and carrying a satchel, walk a few steps before lifting his arms in front of him as gunshots ring out. That video was posted late Sunday night by Instagram user @arilanise, who appears to have since deleted her account.
Area resident Gord Cheong said he and his wife were at home when they heard a commotion.
“We heard some banging just before going to bed last night and my wife turned to me and said, ‘Who the hell’s lighting fireworks at this time of year?’” Cheong said.
Fellow Greektown resident Jayme Milligan, 21, was also settling down for the night when she heard the news. She soon got a panicked phone call from her brother, who was visiting a friend a block away from the shooting scene.
Milligan said she drove to get him, witnessing police cars lined up for blocks and shocked residents rushing into their homes for safety.
“It’s just surreal,” she said. “It still kind of feels not real.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory called the shooting an “unspeakable” act and said the time had come to confront the rising prevalence of guns in the city, which has experienced a spike in shootings in recent weeks.
“Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?” he said in a Monday morning address to city council. “I know answering questions like this won’t fully eliminate tragedies like this, but even if we can prevent one of these incidents, then in my view it is a discussion worth having and having very soon.”
— with files from Alison Auld.
Michelle McQuigge and Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press