The SIU has identified the 29-year-old gunman in the horrific shooting on the Danforth that left two people dead and 13 others injured on Sunday night.
In a statement on Monday evening, the province’s police watchdog said “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.”
The SIU says it spoke with a member of Hussain’s immediate family and a family representative to confirm his identity.
The Hussain family released a statement expressing their condolences to the families “who are now suffering on account of our son’s horrific actions.”
“We are utterly devastated by the incomprehensible news that our son was responsible for the senseless violence and loss of life that took place on the Danforth,” they said
They added that Hussain had “severe mental health challenges” and was struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life.
“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,” they said.
A total of 15 people were shot when the gunman opened fire outside a restaurant at Danforth and Logan avenues in the heart of Greektown said Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders.
Saunders said the deceased woman, identified as Reese Fallon, (pictured below) was from Toronto. A 10-year-old girl from the Greater Toronto Area was also killed in the shooting, but her identity has not been released as per the family’s wishes.
Hussain also died from a gunshot wound, but it’s not yet clear if it was self-inflicted or the result of an exchange of gunfire with police.
On Monday evening, police released a statement saying they executed a search warrant at an apartment in the Thorncliffe Park Drive area as part of the ongoing investigation.
Officers conducted a forensics search of the area and any roads closed for the investigation have since reopened. Police say a small area around a local restaurant will still have a police presence, but traffic will not be affected.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said it is probing the circumstances surrounding his death. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday morning.
SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said the shooter was involved in a brief exchange of gunfire with two Toronto police officers on Bowden Street, just south of Danforth Avenue.
“He was found deceased (on Danforth Ave.) after the interaction,” she confirmed.
No officers were injured.
The motive behind the attack remains a mystery, and Saunders said he wouldn’t speculate. “We do not know why this has happened yet,” the Chief said. “It’s going to take some time.”
On Monday, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada released a statement condemning the shooting.
“We are shocked at the senseless violence that took place in Danforth, in which a child and young woman were killed, and many others injured, after a lone gunman opened-fire,” says National President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama`at Canada, Mr. Lal Khan Malik. “Our sincerest thoughts and prayers are with those affected by this abhorrent incident.”
The 13 people injured range between the ages of 17 and 59. Saunders said their injuries ranged from “minor to serious.”
Toronto police swarmed the area after reports of reports of an active shooter and witnesses told CityNews that they heard up to 25 gunshots.
The injured were taken to various hospitals across the city. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre said its trauma centre received three patients. Michael Garron Hospital, formerly the Toronto East General Hospital, said doctors treated seven people for various injuries, two of which were gunshot wounds. Five people were treated and released from Michael Garron. The two gunshot victims remain in hospital in stable condition.
St. Michael’s hospital received five victims. A trauma surgeon at the hospital said three of the victims underwent emergency surgery.
“I’m not calling it random. This person was here and he definitely shot. I don’t know why he did what he did.”
-Police Chief Mark Saunders
The SIU said the suspect was walking along the Danforth when he “fired shots at groups of people several times.”
Warning: The video below may be disturbing to some viewers. It also has some graphic language.
‘Cowardly act of violence’: Tory
Ahead of a city council meeting, which was recessed until Monday afternoon, Mayor John Tory called the mass shooting a “cowardly act of violence.”
“This is a tragedy, another tragedy in our city this year,” Tory said in council chambers.
“I’ve said for some time that our city has a gun problem … there are far too many people carrying around guns who should not have them.”
Late Sunday night, Tory said the shooting was a “despicable act.”
“I am outraged that someone has unleashed such a terrible attack on our city and people innocently enjoying a Sunday evening,” he said. “I would ask people not to draw any conclusions until we have more information from the police.”
“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 — this is an attack against innocent families and our entire city.”
‘The most brazen shooting yet’: Ford
Ahead of Question Period, the Ontario legislature observed a moment of silence before Premier Doug Ford and other party leaders delivered their statements.
“Today the residents of this city and our entire province are in shock during a year in which we have already lost too many people to gun violence. Last night, we witnessed the most brazen shooting yet,” Ford said, adding that his thoughts go out to the victims of the shooting and their loved ones.
Ford also said that as a life-long resident of Toronto, he will always speak up for and defend the city.
“We’ve always been confident that this is a safe city. Today for too many, this confidence is shaken. But I want the people in Toronto to know that our entire province is behind you,” he added.
Ford said that while Sunday’s shooting “should be a cause for anger, it reminds us that the status quo is not good enough.”
“All of us can also do our part. If you know somebody in your life whom you believe is at risk of committing gun violence, I’m asking you to step forward [and] let the appropriate authorities know.”
Police investigating a motive
Saunders would not speculate on what the motive may have been behind the attack, including the possibility that it may have been a terrorist incident.
“I’m keeping everything open, I’m looking at absolutely every single possible motive for this,” said Saunders. “When you have this many people struck by gunfire it’s a grave concern. I certainly want to find out exactly what it is, so I’m not closing any doors or any chapters on this and I certainly don’t want to speculate as well.”
When asked by reporters at the scene, Saunders said this was not a random shooting.
“I’m not calling it random. This person was here and he definitely shot. I don’t know why he did what he did,” he said.
Saunders wouldn’t say how the suspect died but said it appears it may be from gunshot wounds. He also wouldn’t comment on whether the fatal shot was self-inflicted.
“I wasn’t there, we don’t know, we’re trying to descale it to the best of our ability to make sure that we’re accurate. I can tell you there was an exchange of gunfire,” he said.
Saunders said the suspect is not known to them at this time, but that he did use a handgun.
Somebody yelled ‘get down,’ witness says
The shooting happened in a neighbourhood known for its bustling cafes and restaurants. At the time, people were enjoying a summer evening out with family and friends. Some of the witnesses in the area said they saw people helping the victims before paramedics arrived. Residents in the area said they are in shock and disbelief.
Carter Ashenafi was having dinner with his family on the Danforth when shots rang out. He fled to the kitchen while his family went into the basement.
“I was with my family and we were just eating. We were finished eating, it was dessert. After we’re done that, the manager came and told us there’s been a shooting. And before the manager finished his sentence, they started shooting,” Ashenafi said.
Helen, who didn’t want her last name made public, lives on the Danforth and saw several of the victims.
“When I crossed the street I saw two women, maybe in their 20s, trying to be resuscitated and apparently one of them that I saw died. And then I saw another man at the corner store, cafe, and he was lying down and he also got shot. That’s what I saw.”
She said members of the public sprang into action to help the victims before paramedics arrived on scene.
“Before the ambulance came, people were trying to resuscitate the two girls. It was chaos though,” she said.
“I was trying to help this one woman, calm her down. Apparently her daughter texted her saying she was hiding in the bathroom in one of the restaurants and the mother was just chaotic trying to find where her daughter was and if she was safe. And she was safe.”
Jody Steinhauer said she was out celebrating a birthday on the Danforth at the time of the shooting.
“The restaurant was all open, because the doors were open, and it just sounded like really, really loud fireworks except it was much louder and more pronounced. And then immediately, within seconds, somebody yelled ‘get down,'” she explained.
“We just got all of the kids and everybody to the back of the restaurant, under tables. Everything just happened so fast it was frightening.”
Steinhauer said her boyfriend rushed out onto the sidewalk to help one of the victims.
“We heard a scream and one of the victims was shot right outside (our restaurant), and he went out and helped her with one of the people from the restaurant and carried her into the restaurant.”
Steinhauer said they tried to call 911, but they couldn’t get through and so used Twitter to get help.
“She was screaming and then we tried to call 911 but the circuits were down so we got on Twitter and reached out to (the media) to let everybody know what was going on and that we needed help immediately.”
More on the police investigation; witnesses sought
Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the shootings or may have video or information about the shooting to contact them.
“We’re looking for anyone that saw anything, and this is critical, because what happens is a lot of times people will tend to vet out their information, when in fact it can be extremely important to our investigation,” Saunders said.
“It is very crucial for us to put all of these pieces together to figure out exactly what happened.”
It also appears police conducted a detonation but it is not clear for what reason or when it happened.
“We err on the side of caution whenever we have anything. We try to treat this like a jigsaw puzzle and we want to make sure we maximize the safety of the public, safety of the first responders that are here on scene. So anytime we have anything that even remotely looks innocuous, we’ll err on the side of caution,” Saunders said.
On Monday, Mary Fragedakis, who is the councillor for Toronto-Danforth, said the detonation was for a suspicious package.
“At the same time as [the shooting] was unfolding, there was also a suspicious package that was found and it had closed down Chester Station, and [police] had to detonate that,” she said.
Police dealing with spike in gun violence
The shooting comes on the same weekend Toronto police deployed dozens of additional officers to deal with a recent spike in gun violence in the city. But Saunders said the situation would have been much worse if police did not response as fast as they did.
“We had lots of [police] resources that were able to respond to it. I don’t have any issues to the response. I’m grateful that the officers that did respond — the first ones on scene — are not in harm’s way. They were put in harm’s way. This could have been a different story,” he said.
“But at the same token, I have victims … it certainly is not a day that I’m happy. I know that it could have been worse. I’m glad that the officers responded and I believe that with their quick response, [they] were able to resolve the situation much quicker.”