TORONTO (AP) — A man walking along a Toronto street fired a handgun into restaurants and cafes, killing two people and wounding 13 others before dying after an exchange of gunfire with police.
Police Chief Mark Saunders did not rule out terrorism as a motive in the attack Sunday night in Toronto’s lively Greektown neighborhood, though officials did not immediately identify the assailant other than to say he was 29 years old and from Toronto.
The mass shooting, just three months after the driver of a van plowed into pedestrians on a Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people, shook the confidence of many in this normally safe city.
“It’s almost inconceivable that these things can happen,” said Mayor John Tory. “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.”
“This is an attack against innocent families and our entire city.”
The dead included a 10-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman, Saunders told a news conference on Monday. The 13 wounded ranged in age from 10 to 59, and suffered injuries ranging from serious to minor, he said. He did not name the victims.
Dr. Najma Ahmed of St. Michael’s Hospital said five patients had been admitted in serious or critical condition and that three of the five underwent immediate lifesaving operations.
A video taken by a witness showed 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 in Toronto’s Greektown, a residential area crowded with Greek restaurants and cafes.
Witnesses heard many shots and described the suspect walking past restaurants and cafes and patios on both sides of the street and firing into them.
Ontario’s police watchdog said there was an exchange of gunfire between the assailant and two officers on a side street but the gunman was found dead near Danforth Avenue where the shootings occurred. It was not immediately clear whether he killed himself or was killed by police.
A spokeswoman for the Special Investigations Unit, Monica Hudon, would not say whether the gunman was shot dead by police and said his identity was still being confirmed. She said an autopsy would be performed Tuesday.
Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said the victims included eight women and girls, and seven men.
John Tulloch said he and his brother had just gotten out of their car when he heard about 20 to 30 gunshots.
“We just ran. We saw people starting to run so we just ran,” he said.
Tanya Wilson was closing her tattoo shop on the street when a mother and her son ran into her store with gunshot wounds to their legs
“They said they were walking and a man told them to get the hell out his way and he just shot them,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she tied and elevated their wounds and tried to keep them calm while they waited for paramedics. She locked the door and shut off the lights, not knowing what was happening outside.
Jody Steinhauer was celebrating her birthday with family at Christina’s restaurant on Danforth Avenue when they heard 10 to 15 shots. They ran to the back to the restaurant and hid under a table.
“We heard a woman yell, ‘Help!” My partner went outside the restaurant and the woman was right there. She had been shot,” she said.
Her boyfriend and a doctor who was in the restaurant attended to the woman who was shot in the thigh. “She was screaming and yelling and in shock. Nobody was with her. That was the scary part,” she said.
Police, paramedics and other first responders descended on the scene, while people, some in their pajamas, emerged from their homes to see what was happening.
Toronto Councilor Paula Fletcher told a city council meeting on Monday that the attack was “not gang related” and said the gunman was shooting “indiscriminately” into restaurants and into a park.
“I know we always say, ‘That can’t happen here,’ when we see those gunmen in the States doing the same thing and it has happened here now,” Fletcher said.
Though mass shootings are rare in Canada’s largest city, Toronto police had deployed dozens of additional officers over the weekend to deal with a recent rise in gun violence in the city, which has seen 23 gun homicides so far this year, compared to 16 fatal shootings in the first half of 2017.
“Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?” Tory said at the council meeting.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the confidence that Toronto is a safe city has been shaken.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted that his thoughts were with everyone affected.
“The people of Toronto are strong, resilient and brave — and we’ll be there to support you through this difficult time,” Trudeau tweeted.
In April, the driver of a van plowed into pedestrians on a Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 14. Authorities have not disclosed a motive. But they have said the arrested driver, Alek Minassian, posted a message on social media referencing a misogynistic online community before the attack.
A now-deleted Facebook post indicated anger toward women and saluted Elliot Rodger, a community college student who killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2014.
“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!” read the post, using the term incel to refer to “involuntarily celibate.” Like-minded people on internet forums sometimes use “Chad” and “Stacy” as dismissive slang for men and women with more robust sex lives.