A black-clad gunman opened fire in a busy neighborhood of Toronto on Sunday night, killing at least one person and wounding 13 others before being fatally shot in an “exchange of gunfire” with police, authorities said.
The motive for the shootings was not immediately clear, and the identity of the suspected gunman has not been made public. But Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said it was not a random act and terrorism had not been ruled out.
Video posted on the Internet included the sounds of gunshots echoing off the buildings in an area of restaurants and shops known as Greektown.
“We have a young lady that is deceased right now,” Saunders said. “And we have a young girl, I believe 8 or 9 years old, that is in critical condition.” He said the other shooting victims are currently being treated.
The gunfire erupted around 10 p.m. Sunday near Danforth and Logan avenues east of downtown in the Danforth neighborhood, police tweeted. Saunders described the stretch of roadway as “one of the busiest streets in the country.”
Authorities have yet to release information about the shooter, or offer any possible motive.
“Police have not drawn any conclusions about what happened here or why,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters from the scene.
Saunders issued an appeal to Toronto residents who may have information on the shooting.
“If anybody saw anything at any time, here at Danforth and Logan, if they could please contact the police,” Saunders said.
Video reportedly taken from the scene captured the sound of gunfire as pedestrians ducked into nearby buildings.
The attack shattered an otherwise peaceful night on Danforth, also known as Greektown, a name stemming from the inhabitants who filled the neighborhood following World War II.
A mix of restaurants, each year the street is the scene of a popular “Taste of Danforth” festival, a three-day food and entertainment event in August that pulls in more than 1.5 million visitors, according to its website. The broad cultural melting pot featured at the festival — the event boasts Chinese, South Asian, Egyptian, Greek, Japanese, and Azerbaijani dancing — reflects the eclectic blend of the neighborhood.
“For non-Toronto folk: Danforth/Pape is one of those lively, bustling residential areas with tons of families out on summer nights,” columnist Robyn Urback wrote on Twitter following the shooting. “This is horrific.”
Andrew Van Eek, a resident who lives near the shooting, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. he stuck his head out of his window after the gunfire started.
“There was a lot of commotion in the street,” he told the CBC. “I saw somebody come just down the sidewalk and shoot into Demitri’s restaurant.”
Van Eek told the network the suspect was a young white male, dressed in black, who appeared to be in his early 30s.
Another witness told CTV he estimated the gunman fired about 20 shots.
“And then, I saw the carnage as I ran down the street here to kind of follow the gunfire,” the man told the station. “I saw at least four people shot.”
Jody Steinhauer was strolling into a restaurant on Sunday night with her partner, two sets of grandparents, and her children. It was her birthday celebration, she told Radio New Zealand. But when the party was just entering the establishment, they suddenly heard a series of cracks like firecrackers. Restaurant staff ordered everyone to the back of the room. Get down, they said.
“All you could hear was screaming,” Steinhauer recalled. “There was a woman coming in off the street yelling, ‘Help me! Help me!’ She had been shot in the leg.”
The woman was taken into the back of the room and stabilized on a bench. “Thank goodness there was a doctor in the restaurant,” she explained.
Steinhauer ducked into a corner and began firing off tweets about what was happening. “We couldn’t even get through to the emergency 911 numbers because the circuits were so jammed,” she said. “I was able to tweet out to reporters to let them know what was going on.”
The gunman was killed four doors down from where Steinhauer and her family were hiding, she said.
“It’s just terrifying,” she said. “Toronto is a very safe city, with a lot of people from a lot of cultures. But Who knows what really happened. Time will tell.”
It has been a violent year for Toronto. In April, 25-year-old Alek Minassian allegedly mowed down pedestrians in a shopping district with a van, leaving 10 dead and dozens injured. Minassian is currently facing 10 counts of first-degree murder.
But the latest deadly shooting also comes as Toronto witnesses an increase in gun violence over the recent summer months. Eleven people were shot in a span of 7 days at the end of June, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported. As of July 16, the city has seen 220 shootings in 2018, police department statistics show. Gun-related fatalities this year are up 50 percent from 2017, according to the BBC.
The violent spike has sparked considerable public outcry. In response to the pressure, the city launched a $15-million “gun violence reduction plan” last week. The proposal has put an additional 200 police officers on Toronto streets in targeted areas between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. for the remainder of the summer.
In his brief comments Monday morning, Mayor Tory reiterated the Danforth shooting was “evidence of a gun problem” in the city.
“Guns are too readily available to too many people,” Tory said.
More from Morning Mix: