TORONTO, Ont. – Police in Toronto say they believe they know who was responsible for Saturday’s deadly shooting at the Eaton Centre.
While no suspects were arrested in the sweep of the mall, investigators say surveillance video has been key in identifying their suspect, who has not been named.
Ahmed Hassan, 24, has been identified as the deceased victim. Police believe he may have been targetted and may have had gang affiliation.
“Our investigation clearly suggests that this was a targetted shooting and not a random act of violence against the members of the general public,” said Toronto police Detective Sgt. Brian Borg.
“Regardless, it was committed in a busy mall, in the heart of the city, with no regard for members of the public simply going about their everyday business.”
Another of the victims may have also been a target and had gang affiliations, however that is still under investigation, according to police.
“Whether this is a gang-motivated shooting has not been definitively determined, but I can say that it is being closely looked at giving that at least one of the victims has known gang associations,” Borg added.
Besides the deceased, six others were hit by gunfire and rushed to hospital with various wounds, many of them considered serious.
One of them is reported to be a 13-year-old boy visiting from Port Hope. He was initially listed in critical condition after withstanding a bullet wound to the head, but he is now listed as in improving condition.
A 25-year-old female victim was also injured after receiving a bullet wound to the left leg. She has since been released from hospital.
The same remains true for a man, 25, who was released after suffering a bullet wound to the left leg.
Another 30-year-old woman suffered minor injuries when a bullet grazed her abdomen, and she has also been released from hospital.
One 22-year-old woman who suffered a gunshot wound to the hand refused treatment.
A 23-year-old man is still in hospital after sustaining a bullet wound to the neck and chest. His condition has been described as critical and police say his condition is the worst of the injured parties.
Finally, a pregnant woman was also injured as she was trampled and pushed as people fled the scene. She has been treated at hospital and both the woman and her unborn baby are doing well, according to police.
The mall will remain closed Sunday, as police and forensics teams continue to investigate. Officials said they believe the mall will soon be able to return to normal operation, although they did note the sheer size of the crime scene.
For those who may have dropped a personal belonging while fleeing the scene, police said some sort of a pick-up centre would likely be set up this week.
As for those witnesses who managed to take any pictures or video, police are asking that they contact the homicide unit so police can review their footage.
“For those members of the public the police have not spoken with, that were present at the Urban Eatery, and have any information that they believe would assist, I urge you to contact the homicide squad directly or 52 Division. If you do not wish to call the police directly, please call Crime Stoppers,” Borg said.
While the police did not want to give away too many details, they did suggest that an arrest would be pursued quickly. A suspect description or name still has not been released.
“I can assure you that the police have done a tremendous amount of work in a short period of time, and I’m very confident we are going to make an arrest very soon,” said Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in a press conference Sunday.
“I can assure people that this is the safest city in the world,” Ford added.
CityNews video: Toronto police Chief Bill Blair addressing the media
The shooting was an event that left a city shocked, a country stunned and is making headlines all around the world.
The afternoon shopping at the Eaton Centre, downtown Toronto’s largest and busiest mall, was interrupted after a gunman opened fire in the mall’s packed food court.
The shooting happened just before 6:30 p.m. Saturday, sparking a frenzied, mass evacuation from the downtown mall.
Generally a busy weekend shopping destination for many visitors and residents of Toronto, the Eaton Centre will likely never be the same for many..
“All of the sudden we heard, bang bang bang, really, really fast, at least seven or eight times,” said one man.
“All of the sudden we heard gunshots, and I saw somebody walking, and I saw the white lights, everything was so sudden. I ran under a table and I couldn’t find my mom at first,” sobbed one young woman. “But then I found her and we had to hide in the kitchen for a while.”
Ford also attended the scene Saturday night, condemning the shooting and sending his thoughts to the victims and their families.
“It rips me apart, I was just at a football game with 13 and 14-year-old kids,” Ford said of the young shooting victim. “It pulls at my heart strings.”
CityNews video: Mayor Rob Ford responds to fatal Eaton Centre shooting
In a statement, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said: “On behalf of all Ontarians, I want to express my condolences to family and friends of everyone involved in tonight’s shooting at the Eaton Centre. Those who were injured are particularly in Ontarians’ thoughts and prayers right now as we attempt to make sense of this instance of senseless, tragic violence in the heart of a peaceful city.”
“I know I speak for all Ontarians when I say that while we are saddened and shocked by today’s events, we will respond as we always have — with strength, determination and a desire to work together, and work even harder, to build communities that are safe, secure and free of gun violence.”
Many others have chimed in, including Olivia Chow, who Tweeted: “On flight back to Toronto. My thoughts and prayers are to those shot at the Eaton Centre and their families. Will drop by Yonge/Dundas Sq.”
Major international news outlets like CNN, ABC and Al Jazeera all picked up on the story; a testament to the massive impact of the shooting.
CityNews video: Shots fired inside Eaton Centre
In a statement, Eaton Centre’s property manager, Cadillac Fairview, said the mall will be closed to both shoppers and employees until further notice.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families during this difficult time,” company spokesperson Janine Ojah-Maharaj said.
On another note, Toronto Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie was at the mall after playing an afternoon game against the Boston Red Sox when the shooting occurred. He described it as a chaotic scene.
St. Michael’s Hospital, which is near the mall, was briefly in lockdown mode, but it was later lifted.
Subway service was initially shut down between Bloor and Union stations for the investigation, but has partially reopened with trains currently bypassing Queen and Dundas stations. The 501 and 505 streetcars were on diversion but have since resumed their regular routing.
It’s not the first time the area has seen gunfire. In 2005, 15-year-old Jane Creba was killed and six others were wounded on Boxing Day in a shooting just outside of the mall.
YouTube video: Aftermath of shooting at Eaton Centre