Gang ties possible in Eaton Centre shooting: police
Published Sunday, June 3, 2012 7:43PM EDT
Toronto police identified the man killed in the violent shooting at the Toronto Eaton Centre Saturday evening and said they have a clear idea of the identity of the shooter.
Ahmed Hassan, 24, of Toronto, was killed and seven other people were injured Saturday evening during what the city's police chief called a "wanton and incredibly dangerous" shooting.
Investigators said Hassan was known to police and it is believed that he had gang-related ties. Police earlier said that they believe Hassan was targeted in the brazen shooting.
On Sunday, police and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford promised swift action in their pursuit of a suspect in the fatal shooting at the crowded shopping mall in the city's downtown core.
No one is in custody yet, but Det. Sgt. Brian Borg said Sunday that police have a description of the suspect.
"We feel good that we have identified the person that we need to find, but we do have more investigative steps that need to be taken in order to solidify that and as soon as we can take action and identify him to the public we will and as soon as we can arrest him we will," Borg told reporters.
A shaken Ford, who rushed to the mall a short time after the shooting, "guaranteed" a quick resolution to the crime.
"We will apprehend the suspect. I will guarantee it," the mayor told reporters during a press conference at police headquarters. "This is a safe city and I want people to continue doing what they do every day…We are not going to tolerate this in our city and we will make an arrest."
Police have been pouring over surveillance video as well as video from cellular phones and other handheld devices to view the crime. Acting Deputy Chief Jeff McGuire said that that aid "has been monumental and allowed us to move forward."
The eight victims -- four female and four male -- include one 13-year-old boy.
Police said that the teen, who was visiting Toronto, was listed in critical but stable condition at the Hospital For Sick Children with a gunshot wound to the head.
Another 23-year-old man was in critical condition with multiple gunshot wounds to the neck and chest.
Three other victims were treated and released from hospital, while a 28-year-old pregnant woman who was caught up in the stampede to the exits is resting in hospital.
"That woman and her unborn child, I'm glad to say are doing well," Borg said.
Police would not say whether any of the victims were related to Hassan.
The mall remained closed Sunday for the investigation. Mall officials announced Sunday evening that retail stores and parking garages will open for regular business hours on Monday. The Urban Eatery will remain closed for another day and re-open on Tuesday.
Mall officials said in a statement they are "encouraged" by the quick progression of the police investigation at the Eaton Centre.
"We thank our patrons, tenants and staff for their patience and understanding," the statement said. "At this time our thoughts remain with the innocent victims of this crime."
Members of the public left notes at a makeshift memorial outside the mall. A small vigil was also held in nearby Dundas Square Sunday evening.
Police are expected to release information Monday about where shoppers who abandoned belongings in the mall when the shooting broke out can claim the items.
Mayhem at the mall
Police, firefighters and paramedics swarmed the busy shopping mall Saturday evening after they received a report of a shooting around 6:23 p.m.
The mall, located in the heart of downtown Toronto, was completely shut down and evacuated.
Photos from the scene showed shoppers flooding out of the mall into the downtown streets, which are among the busiest in the city.
The mall is a popular tourist destination, with more than 280 stores and restaurants. More than 50 million people walk through its doors annually.
Police said that the random shooting should not paint the city in a different light.
"One idiot with a gun on a Saturday afternoon in downtown Toronto does not speak to the state of affairs of the city of Toronto," said McGuire.
"This is one very, large horrific event but it is not the state of the city of Toronto. It is an isolated incident, there have been other shootings, but please do not gauge the city on what we saw yesterday."
One of the victims, who identified himself as "Nicholas," was released Saturday night from hospital after he was treated for gunshot wounds to his leg. He described the moments after the shots rang out.
"We were downstairs and we heard shots. We hit the ground and that is when I got hit," he told CP24.
Nicholas said "survival instinct" prompted him to flee the mall despite his injury.
He said he did not see the shooter during the commotion.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who was on his way to London to participate in the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, issued a statement condemning what he called a "depraved and monstrous act."
"I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim, and wish a speedy recovery to those injured by this senseless act of violence," Harper said.
The violence at the mall, the second such fatal shooting in the area in the past few years, has sparked renewed calls for tighter security and more police officers. But politicians said the random violence at the major tourist attraction should not be turned into a political debate.
"There should be no politics made out of this," Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong told CP24. "Quite frankly I don't think whether the police had more or less money would have stopped what happened yesterday."
And Minnan-Wong said the "random" shooting should not change the way that the city's attractions are policed.
"We can't turn the city into an armed camp. There can't be police in every single mall," he said.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Ashley Rowe