Family says suspect in Toronto shooting had mental problems
TORONTO (AP) — A man whose family said he suffered from psychosis and depression fired a handgun into restaurants and cafes in a lively Toronto neighborhood, killing a 10-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman and wounding 13 others in an attack that has shaken the confidence of many in the normally safe city.
Authorities on Monday evening identified the suspect as Faisal Hussain, 29, of Toronto, who died in an exchange of gunfire with police. It was not immediately clear whether he killed himself or was killed by police.
The mass shooting in Toronto’s Greektown district Sunday night came just three months after a van struck and killed 10 people in an apparent attack directed at women.
A statement from the family of Hussain said their son had severe mental health challenges, having struggled with psychosis and depression. They said medications did not help him and the interventions of professionals were unsuccessful.
“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,” the Hussain family said.
“Our hearts are in pieces for the victims and for our city as we all come to grips with this terrible tragedy. We will mourn those who were lost for the rest of our lives.”
Police Chief Mark Saunders earlier said he would not speculate on a motive but did not rule out terrorism.
“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 slain 18-year-old was identified as Reese Fallon, a recent high school graduate who volunteered for Canada’s Liberal party and was due to attend McMaster University in the fall. Her family said in a statement they were devastated.
“She was ... smart, passionate and full of energy. It is a huge loss,” said Canadian Member of Parliament Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who knew Fallon.
Flags at Toronto City Hall as well as at Fallon’s former high school, Malvern CI, were lowered to half-staff.
“An engaging student, Reese Fallon graduated from Malvern CI just last month and was highly regarded by staff and loved by her friends,” the school board said in a statement, adding that support was being offered to students.
The 13 wounded ranged in age from 10 to 59, and suffered injuries ranging from serious to minor, Saunders said. He did not name the victims, who included eight women and girls, and seven men.
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 all in black walking quickly down a sidewalk and firing three shots 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.
At the corner of Danforth and Logan, where some of the shots were fired, about 50 people milled about on a small square Monday evening, talking in several languages. They expressed shock at a shooting in such a neighborhood, which is graced with parks, pretty two-story brick homes and street cafes.
Some hugged, others wept. Others were somber, wondering both why someone would want to hurt people in their neighborhood — and how he obtained a gun in a country with far stricter gun laws than in the neighboring U.S.
Bouquets of flowers lay near a plaque commemorating the city, while a few steps away people signed a makeshift memorial made of plywood. “we are Danforth strong,” it says, referring to the neighborhood’s main street, The Danforth.
“I’m out of my mind just thinking about it,” said 66-year-old Augustino Speciale, who paused to smell a bouquet of white lilies attached to a lamppost. “It’s Toronto.”
Ontario’s police watchdog said there was an exchange of gunfire between the assailant and two officers on a side street before the gunman was found dead near Danforth Avenue where the shootings occurred.
Tanya Wilson was closing her tattoo shop on the street when she heard gunshots and 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,” Steinhauer 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.
Toronto Councilor Paula Fletcher said the attack was “not gang related” and that the gunman shot “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.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the confidence that Toronto is a safe city had been shaken. Toronto has long prided itself as being one of the safest big cities in the world.
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 said the arrested driver, Alek Minassian, posted a message on social media referencing a misogynistic online community before the attack.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.