In the hours following a horrific mass shooting in Toronto’s east end, several witnesses have described the panic as dozens of bystanders were left running for their lives.

Police say on Sunday evening at around 10 p.m., a 29-year-old man with a handgun opened fire in Toronto’s Greektown village along Danforth Avenue, a busy area filled with popular restaurants and shops.

Three people died in the shooting, including the gunman, while another 12 are injured. Ontario’s police watchdog said the shooter fled police gunfire, but was later found dead on Danforth Avenue.

‘Horrible look in his face’

One witness told CP24 he heard “at least 20 shots” as he made his way through the area.

“I saw the carnage as I ran down the street here,” he said. “(It was) pretty crazy. I saw at least four people shot here by the fountain.”

Andrew Mantzios, another witness to the shooting, said he was at one point standing just 10 or 15 feet away from the shooter.

“(He had) long hair, a black hat and a dark shirt with long sleeves rolled up,” he said. “He was skinny, but he had this horrible look in his face.”

“One woman ran and she fell and he went over her and shot her twice, point blank.”

Family hid under tables

Jody Steinhauer said she was at a nearby restaurant celebrating a birthday with her family when she heard the gunfire.

“We thought it was firecrackers, it was so loud,” she said.

Steinhauer and the other patrons immediately fled to the back of the restaurant and hid under tables, she said.

“My boyfriend then heard somebody scream, ‘Help’ and saw a woman who had been hit right in front walking in the restaurant and grabbed one of the restaurant people and they brought her into safety.”

The woman who had been shot was treated by a doctor who had been in the restaurant at the time, Steinhauer said.

“This poor woman was shot, she was screaming, no one was with her [at first] and nobody knew what was going on,” she said.

Steinhauer said she and her family were lucky because they were going to leave the restaurant five minutes earlier, but her birthday cake came out late.

“Thank God because our car was parked at Logan and Danforth and we would have walked right to the car and been right in the line of everything,” she said.

Steinhauer told CTV News Channel on Monday that the first responders “did a really great job.”

“Everyone just wants to know one thing,” she added. “Who is this guy and why did he do what he did?”

‘Zig-zagging’ down the street

Another witness said he saw the shooter cross the street in front of him at an intersection, but did not immediately realize what was going on until he saw the man stop in front of a coffee shop and open fire.

“He pulled out a black handgun and started shooting through the window just as we were passing him,” he said. “We saw the glass shatter.”

“It was just one shooter that I saw and he would just zig-zag across the street whenever he saw people. He would head for a group of people and start shooting some easy targets.”

Young girl on the ground

Jessica Young said she was in a local restaurant when the gunman shot twice through the window.

“We heard a gunshot, like a really loud pop,” she said. “I thought something might have dropped, but immediately ducked and I saw the shooter through the window.”

One woman named Diana told CP24 she was serving a family of four at Demetres Danforth when the shooter opened fire on the coffee shop.

“Everyone started yelling and crying,” she said. “I ran towards the back and went to the basement.”

Diana said when it appeared safe to emerge from the basement, she saw a little girl from the family she’d been serving lying on the ground.

“Her mom was crying,” Diana said. “I’m really worried about that little girl because she just started her life.”

‘I wouldn’t expect this here’

Another witness told CP24 she was driving along the Danforth when she stopped her car to offer help.

“There were two people lying down,” she said. “Two young girls were lying down on the ground, shot. One of them passed away.”

“This is my neighbourhood. This is chaotic. I wouldn’t expect this to happen here.”

John Tulloch told The Canadian Press he and his brother heard between 20 and 30 gunshots as they got out of their car along the Danforth.

"We just ran,” he said. “We saw people starting to run so we just ran.”

‘Still in shock’

Suzanne Kanso was also in her car chatting with a friend when the shooting began.

“I heard a pop sound,” she told CTV News Channel. “I didn’t make much of it, neither myself nor my friend, but we just saw one cop car rush in after the other and before you knew it there was about a dozen cars and police officers.”

Kanso said she stayed in her vehicle and watched the chaos unfold around her.

“I saw people running out from the scene, so towards Danforth and the Carlaw in fear, mortified,” she said. “It was scary.”

The young woman lives in the neighbourhood and said she’s still trying to process what she witnessed that night.

“I’m still in shock,” she said. “I think as a community in Greektown, we’re trying to stay strong.”

With files from The Canadian Press and CP24