Terrorism was not being ruled out as a motive after a gunman fired into packed Toronto restaurants and cafes Sunday, killing two people and injuring 12 others before dying in a gun battle with police, officials said.
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit said in a news release two people were killed by a man who “fired shots at groups of people several times” while walking along Danforth Avenue.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said cops were investigating “every possible motive, including terrorism.” Saunders said a young woman was among the dead, and a 9-year-old girl was critically injured in the shooting.
“I’m looking at every single possible motive for this,” the Canadian top cop told reporters. “When you have this many people struck by gunfire, it’s a grave concern.”
Saunders said it was not clear if the gunman was killed by police or if he killed himself. The SIU said the suspected gunman, a 29-year-old man, was located by police on Bowden Street and “an exchange of gunfire took place.” The man fled the area and was located, deceased, on Danforth Avenue, according to the SIU.
Authorities received a call shortly after 10 p.m. about the incident in Toronto’s Greektown neighborhood, a lively residential area with crowded Greek restaurants and cafes.
Witnesses reported hearing 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 told the Canadian Press 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.
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. The condition of the other victims was not known yet, police spokesman Mark Pugash said.
Another witness to the rampage told CP24 he was standing 10 to 15 feet away from the alleged gunman.
“He looked around 35, long hair, black hat. He had a dark shirt with long sleeves rolled up and black pants,” the man told the television station. “He was skinny, but he had this horrible look in his face, like he was under the influence or something.”
Andrew Mantzios told The Globe and Mail he heard gunshots ring out around 10 p.m. and saw a man dressed in all black walking towards the group of people he was with carrying a handgun.
“He had this horrible expression on his face,” Mantzios said.
Mantzios told the newspaper the gunman then fired at a group of people in the street.
“And then a lady tried to run and she fell down,” he said. “He turned around and shot her point blank, two or three times.”
Toronto Councilor Paula Fletcher told CP24 she was told the gunman was emotionally disturbed.
“It’s not gang related. It looks like someone who is very disturbed,” Fletcher said.
Councilor Mary Fragedakis also said she heard the gunman was disturbed.
Toronto Mayor John Tory called the incident “a despicable act,” according to CTV News.
“This is a tragedy and on behalf of all Toronto residents, we are extending our prayers to all the innocent people attacked tonight, their families and their friends,” he said.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the rampage a “terrible tragedy.”
“My thoughts are with everyone affected by the terrible tragedy on the Danforth last night in Toronto, and may the injured make a full recovery,” he posted to Twitter. “The people of Toronto are strong, resilient and brave – and we’ll be there to support you through this difficult time.”
Over the past weekend, Toronto police deployed dozens of additional officers to deal with a recent spike in gun violence in the city. The city’s mayor has previously said the city has a gun problem.
The mass shooting comes a few months after the driver of a van plowed into pedestrians on a Toronto sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 14. Authorities have not disclosed a motive in that incident. But they have said the suspect, Alek Minassian, posted a message on social media referencing a misogynistic online community before the attack.
The Associated Press contributed to this report