TORONTO, Ont. – The suspected gunman in Saturday’s fatal shooting in Toronto’s Eaton Centre was under house arrest on another criminal charge and awaiting trial at the time of the shooting.
Christopher Husbands, a 23-year-old father, walked into 52 Division with his lawyer early Monday morning to turn himself in. He had been charged with one count of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder in the shooting.
On June 13, Husbands faced new charges: two counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder since a second victim died of his injuries Monday June 11.
Police said the shooting was not gang-motivated, even though there are indications Husbands and the victims knew each other and were part of the same gang.
“There are people who have associations to gangs,” said Toronto Police Det.-Sgt. Brian Borg at a press conference on Monday. “Regardless, I do not believe that this is a gang-motivated homicide. I believe there’s personal aspects involved.”
Afternoon shopping at the Eaton Centre, downtown Toronto’s largest and busiest mall, was interrupted Saturday evening when a gunman opened fire in the mall’s packed food court and killed one person.
“At the time of the shooting, Mr. Husbands was a charged individual and was on house arrest conditions not to be outside of his residence,” said Det.-Sgt. Borg.
Borg said some suspects are determined to ignore court orders despite police efforts to make them comply.
Mayor Rob Ford also addressed the media Monday, thanked police for their hard work and told Torontonians they have no reason to be fearful.
“It’s been a terrible couple days, but this is the safest city in the world,” he said.
Deputy Chief Jeff McGuire applauded his officers for the way they responded to the shooting, but also thanked shoppers who were in the Eaton Centre at the time and stopped to help others.
“It’s a traumatic event for those people, but they’re the heroes – the citizens of Toronto,” he said.
Ahmed Hassan, 24, of Toronto, was killed instantly and six others were injured in the shooting.
Besides the deceased, six others were hit by gunfire and rushed to hospital with various wounds, many of them considered serious.
One of them was a 13-year-old boy, who was visiting from Port Hope, Ont. He was initially listed in critical condition after withstanding a bullet wound to the head, but he is now listed as in improving condition.
Trinity College School in Port Hope confirmed the 13-year-old boy is a student at the school.
“Representatives from the school have been in touch with the family to offer our support and we are encouraged by the news that our student’s condition is now stable,” the school said in a statement.
“We respect the family’s right and request to privacy; as such, the school will not be releasing the name of the student at this time. We are reaching out to our students, parents and staff to ensure supports are in place to help them deal with this most difficult situation. Our thoughts and prayers are with the student and his family.”
A 25-year-old female victim was also injured after receiving a bullet wound to the left leg. She has since been released from hospital.
The same remains true for a man, 25, who was released after suffering a bullet wound to the left leg.
Another 30-year-old woman suffered minor injuries when a bullet grazed her abdomen, and she has also been released from hospital.
One 22-year-old woman who suffered a gunshot wound to the hand refused treatment.
A 23-year-old man is still in hospital after sustaining a bullet wound to the neck and chest. His condition has been described as critical and police say his condition is the worst of the injured parties. Police said he is a member of the same gang as Husbands and the deceased.
A pregnant woman was also injured as she was trampled and pushed as people fled the scene. She has been treated at hospital and both the woman and her unborn baby are doing well, according to police.
“Our investigation clearly suggests that this was a targeted shooting and not a random act of violence against the members of the general public,” Det.-Sgt. Borg said.
“Regardless, it was committed in a busy mall, in the heart of the city, with no regard for members of the public simply going about their everyday business.”
“Whether this is a gang-motivated shooting has not been definitively determined, but I can say that it is being closely looked at giving that at least one of the victims has known gang associations,” Borg added.
As for those witnesses who managed to take any pictures or video, police are asking that they contact the homicide unit so police can review their footage.
“For those members of the public the police have not spoken with, that were present at the Urban Eatery, and have any information that they believe would assist, I urge you to contact the homicide squad directly or 52 Division. If you do not wish to call the police directly, please call Crime Stoppers,” Borg said.
“I can assure you that the police have done a tremendous amount of work in a short period of time, and I’m very confident we are going to make an arrest very soon,” said Mayor Ford during Sunday’s press conference.
CityNews video: Toronto police Chief Bill Blair addressing the media
The shooting was an event that left a city shocked, a country stunned and is making headlines all around the world.
The shooting happened just before 6:30 p.m. Saturday, sparking a frenzied, mass evacuation from the downtown mall.
Generally a busy weekend shopping destination for many visitors and residents of Toronto, the Eaton Centre will likely never be the same for many..
“All of the sudden we heard, bang bang bang, really, really fast, at least seven or eight times,” said one man.
“All of the sudden we heard gunshots, and I saw somebody walking, and I saw the white lights, everything was so sudden. I ran under a table and I couldn’t find my mom at first,” sobbed one young woman. “But then I found her and we had to hide in the kitchen for a while.”
Ford also attended the scene Saturday night, condemning the shooting and sending his thoughts to the victims and their families.
“It rips me apart, I was just at a football game with 13 and 14-year-old kids,” Ford said of the young shooting victim. “It pulls at my heart strings.”
CityNews video: Mayor Rob Ford responds to fatal Eaton Centre shooting
In a statement, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said: “On behalf of all Ontarians, I want to express my condolences to family and friends of everyone involved in tonight’s shooting at the Eaton Centre. Those who were injured are particularly in Ontarians’ thoughts and prayers right now as we attempt to make sense of this instance of senseless, tragic violence in the heart of a peaceful city.”
“I know I speak for all Ontarians when I say that while we are saddened and shocked by today’s events, we will respond as we always have — with strength, determination and a desire to work together, and work even harder, to build communities that are safe, secure and free of gun violence.”
Many others have chimed in, including Olivia Chow, who Tweeted: “On flight back to Toronto. My thoughts and prayers are to those shot at the Eaton Centre and their families. Will drop by Yonge/Dundas Sq.”
Major international news outlets like CNN, ABC and Al Jazeera all picked up on the story; a testament to the massive impact of the shooting.
CityNews video: Shots fired inside Eaton Centre
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” said Janine Ojah-Maharaj, a spokesperson for Cadillac Fairview, Eaton Centre’s property manager.
On another note, Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie was at the mall after playing an afternoon game against the Boston Red Sox when the shooting occurred. He described it as a chaotic scene.
St. Michael’s Hospital, which is near the mall, was briefly in lockdown mode, but it was later lifted.
Subway service was initially shut down between Bloor and Union stations for the investigation, but has partially reopened with trains currently bypassing Queen and Dundas stations. The 501 and 505 streetcars were on diversion but resumed their regular routing later that evening.
It’s not the first time the area has seen gunfire. In 2005, 15-year-old Jane Creba was killed and six others were wounded on Boxing Day in a shooting just outside of the mall.
YouTube video: Aftermath of shooting at Eaton Centre
The mall, which was closed since the shooting, reopened for business on Monday — this includes retails stores and parking garages. However, the Urban Eatery food court will reopen to the public on Tuesday.