Man firing into Toronto cafes shoots 14 people, killing 2

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Police work the scene of a shooting, Sunday, July 22 in Toronto, Canada. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
Police work the scene of a shooting, Sunday, July 22 in Toronto, Canada. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Toronto (AP) — A man walked along a Toronto street firing a handgun into restaurants and cafes, shooting 14 people and killing two before dying after an exchange of gunfire with police.

Police Chief Mark Saunders did not rule out terrorism as a motive, though officials did not immediately identify the attacker, other than to say he was 29 years old.

Sunday night’s 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.”

Speaking later Monday at a city council meeting, Tory said, “This is an attack against innocent families and our entire city.”

Toronto police spokesman Meaghan Gray said early Monday that a second victim had died, though there were no further details.

Saunders earlier said that a young woman had died in the shootings and that a girl aged 8 or 9 was in critical condition.

Dr. Najma Ahmed of St. Michael’s hospital said her hospital has five patients who are in serious or critical condition and said that three of the five underwent immediate lifesaving operations. The condition of the other victims at other hospitals was not immediately known.

A video from one witness shows 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 lively residential area with crowded 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.

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 a 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.

An army of 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 said during the council meeting 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.

Mass shootings are rare in Canada’s largest city.

This past weekend Toronto police deployed dozens of additional officers 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.

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.