Toronto Shooting Shakes City Amid a Rash of Violence


TORONTO — The shots rang out, one by one and in bursts. Diners at the outdoor tables of the packed bars and restaurants along the Danforth, the main drag of one of Toronto’s hottest neighborhoods, dived for cover.

In the end, two people were killed, including a 10-year-old girl, and 13 were wounded.

The shooting Sunday night in a neighborhood that is home to hipsters and young families, where even the smallest house sells for $1 million, was the latest in a rash of violence that has sent the largest city in Canada reeling.

Toronto has awakened to a grim new reality: Despite Canada’s tight gun laws, the city is gripped with some of the same problems that bedevil larger places with laxer rules.

Late on Monday, the police identified the gunman as Faisal Hussain, 29, a Toronto resident. He was found dead close to the scene of the attack after the police exchanged fire with him.

The authorities refused to speculate about a motive for the shooting, or about whether it was an act of terrorism. “It’s way too early to rule out anything,” said Mark Saunders, Toronto’s police chief.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Safety said the investigation into the shooting, while in its early stages, was not treating it as a matter of national security for now.

Mr. Hussain’s family, in a statement, said he had suffered from severe mental health problems, including psychosis and depression, his entire life.

“The interventions of professionals were unsuccessful,” the family said. “Medications and therapy were unable to treat him. 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 statement, issued by a communications specialist, offered the “deepest condolences to the families who are now suffering on account of our son’s horrific actions.”

The shooting came after a spate of attacks in Toronto since spring.

In April, 10 people were killed when the driver of a rental van struck dozens of pedestrians on a sidewalk.

Last month, a driver took a shotgun out of her trunk and fired at a 21-year-old pedestrian, injuring her and a 69-year-old man riding his bike.

That followed the shooting in June of two sisters, ages 5 and 9, by two men who pulled out guns at a busy playground.

Newspapers and radio shows have throbbed with concern that the city is entering another “Summer of the Gun,” as 2005 was deemed by Torontonians. That year, 52 people were killed and 359 were shot and wounded.

So far this year, the city has had 308 victims and 29 fatalities from shootings, according to data from the Toronto Police Service.

Like shootings in the United States, the drumbeat of attacks has brought gun control to the forefront of public debate.

“Things like this don’t happen in Toronto, but these last three months ….” said Nick Chitilian, the owner of a coffee shop on the Danforth that was cordoned off by police tape and remained a crime scene on Monday.

Inside, the only people drinking coffee were police officers, reviewing the footage from Mr. Chitilian’s six surveillance cameras.

One of the cameras, he said, captured the gunman shooting at three women who were running before him, then aiming inside the cafe at people there, shattering the window.

Reese Fallon, 18, in a photo provided by her family.

“They got away with the hair of their necks,” said Mr. Chitilian, who has owned the building for 30 years. “It’s freaky.”

Two people were not so lucky. One of the two victims who were killed was Reese Fallon, 18.

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a member of Parliament from the area, described her as a “local young Liberal, smart, passionate and full of energy.” Ms. Fallon was set to study nursing at a university in the fall, according to CP24, a Canadian news outlet.

Toronto’s mayor, John Tory, called the rampage a “cowardly act of violence” and “an attack on our city itself.”

“I’ve said for some time that the city has a gun problem,” Mr. Tory told the City Council on Monday. “Guns are far too readily available to far too many people.”

Compared with American cities, the number of shootings in Toronto is low. That is by design. Canada does not have an enshrined right to bear arms, and over the years it has introduced strict gun laws.

While many Americans can buy a handgun in less than an hour, in Canada it takes at least a month; purchasers must pass background checks screening for criminal records, mental health issues and a history of domestic violence. They must also meet other requirements, including passing a written and practical test and getting character references.

Despite these restrictions, gun control advocates say the measures do not go far enough. One problem, they say, is loopholes that allow for firearms to be transported under the pretext they are destined for a border crossing, a gun show or a gunsmith.

“You’ve heard me ask the question as to why anyone would need to buy 10 or 20 guns, which they can lawfully do under the present laws,” Mr. Tory told City Council.

And, he added, “Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?”

According to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, from 2013 to 2016, criminal incidents related to guns jumped 30 percent, while gun homicides increased by more than 60 percent.

Although some handguns are smuggled across the border from the United States, Mario Harel, president of Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, told a legislative committee in May that “50 percent of all handguns used in crime, that we have been able to trace, have been diverted from legal Canadian firearm owners.”

Last March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government proposed tightening the country’s gun laws by expanding background checks for all gun owners beyond the current five-year period and restoring requirements on sellers to keep records for some rifle and shotgun sales across the country.

But the bill has yet to pass, and the debate about gun control in the country remains fierce, pitting rural residents who resent the red tape — and the implication that they are criminals — against urban dwellers who do not hunt and largely think only the police should have guns.

Mr. Saunders, Toronto’s police chief, said there was no “magic pill” to tackling gun crime in the city. “I live in the city of Toronto and I, too, have concerns,” he said. He added, “Other cities go through this more than we have.”

Canadians across the country, including the prime minister, expressed shock and grief at Sunday’s shooting. So did local residents who crowded around the edges of the police tape sealing off blocks of the Danforth.

The area, once the domain of Greek immigrants, has been transformed. Its main street is now lined with buzzing bars and restaurants whose crowds spill out onto the sidewalk. Ice cream parlors, health food stores and fruit and vegetable stands all compete for space.

“It’s really sad this has happened in this area,” said Milton Kong, 32, a financial analyst who was having dinner with a friend at a Greek restaurant when he heard volleys of shots and dived under his table for cover. “There have been lots of incidents this year. I am growing more concerned.”

The street is known for its festival of food, music and dance, Taste of the Danforth, which draws huge crowds over one weekend every summer.

On Monday, businesses and local officials were not thinking about the festival. They were planning a memorial.

“I’m shocked,” said Mary Fragedakis, a city councilor who has lived in the area for all her 47 years. “I’m in complete disbelief. I’m just heartbroken.”

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A8 of the New York edition with the headline: Fatal Mass Shooting Rattles Toronto After Recent Spate of Violent Attacks. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

Source : Nytimes