Police seek 4th person in shooting near Raptors rally
Published Tuesday, June 18, 2019 9:14AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 18, 2019 6:02PM EDT
Toronto police are seeking a fourth person in connection with a shooting during Monday’s Raptors celebrations that injured four people and set off a panic in the crowd.
During a scrum with reporters on Tuesday, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said investigators were looking for a “person of interest” who he described as a white male between 5’9” and 6’ feet tall with short light-brown hair and a heavy build. Saunders said the man was wearing a white button-down shirt and was last seen running westbound on Queen Street West.
“There were definitely people that were there that saw and would probably have no idea in connecting the dots -- that’s the person that we’re looking for,” he said.
Three suspects were arrested and two firearms were recovered soon after shots rang out at approximately 3:30 p.m., just after the Toronto Raptors team arrived at Nathan Phillips Square for a rally in honour of their NBA championship win.
Shaquille Anthony Miller, 25, Abdikarim Kerow, 18, and Thaino Toussaint, 20, of Toronto all appeared at Old City Hall court Tuesday at 10 a.m. on charges for firearm offences. Kerow’s charges related to a prior warrant for his arrest, police said in a statement.
Saunders said police are also looking for the gun involved in the shooting because the shell casings at the scene don’t match the two firearms they already recovered.
“When we look at the casings, which identify that a gunshot has occurred, they’re not matching right now, on first blush, the guns that we have seized,” he said.
The shooting occurred at the back of the square near Queen Street West and Bay Street and caused crowds of fans to flee in panic.
Several witnesses said they were trampled by other scared attendees who were rushing to escape the scene of the shooting.
Miriam Valdes-Carletti was one of those fans who was caught in the middle of the chaos moments after the shooting.
“I was standing right by the Toronto sign, pretty much in the middle of all of it, and all of a sudden I heard a rumbling, sort of like there was a herd of animals coming towards us and everyone turned around and we were just like whiplashed and trampled all over,” she recalled to CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.
The young woman said she fell to the ground, but a woman grabbed her arm and helped her up as people fled for safety.
“It was just really scary. There were kids crying, like holding their moms. There were other people screaming ‘Don’t lose me! Don’t lose me!’” she said. “There were just so many people.”
Valdes-Carletti said she didn’t see any police officers as she ran. However, Toronto Police Const. David Hopkinson said there was a “very large police presence in the area” where the shooting occurred, which allowed them to reach the victims and suspects quickly.
The four victims all suffered non-life-threatening injuries, according to Saunders.
The police chief said he doesn’t yet have enough information to determine a possible motive behind the shootings.
“It’s still early with respect to magnitude of the occurrence and the situation and the amount of things that have to be combed through,” he said.
Saunders said they have already received video evidence and information that led to the arrest of a few suspects. He asked that any other witnesses “step up and help us” by uploading any vidoes or photos to a dedicated online portal. Witnesses can also call police at 416-808-5200 or contact Crime Stoppers.
“The biggest thing we're looking for is witnesses because we can't have two million people in a small space and say nobody saw anything,” he said.
As the city appeared to return to normalcy on Tuesday, questions have been raised about the level of security at the event.
Brad Ross, the chief communications officer at the City of Toronto, said Monday’s parade and rally were intended to be positive events.
“We need to remember this is about celebration, not keeping people back, but allowing people to have fun,” he explained.
Ross said the police presence throughout the day was at the discretion of the Toronto Police Service and he could only comment that there were security measures in place.
“We had barricades along the route. The barricades were essentially ignored by the fans,” he said. “Were they everywhere on both sides of the street? I don’t believe they were, but they were certainly along key pieces of the route.”
The safety of fans became a concern when crowds gathered on the street only metres away from the double-decker buses carrying the Raptors, which caused significant delays throughout the parade.
“People surged onto the street and I think that’s something that’s part of our post-mortem and debrief on this event is what might we be able to do differently next time,” Ross said.
CTV Public Safety Analyst Chris Lewis said police tried to find the right balance between keeping people safe and maintaining a positive atmosphere.
“If you get too restrictive then people start trying to violate that and that causes other problems,” he told CTV News Channel. “If you’re too strict in terms of taking action on some people that are maybe walking out on the street that shouldn’t, you have to really balance that out and not create arrests and fights and problems you’d rather not have.”
Lewis said he thought city officials and emergency crews did an “excellent job” of organizing and monitoring the celebrations throughout the day.
“They didn’t have a real blueprint because they’ve never had two million people in the City of Toronto like that,” he said. “They know how to do these things very well, they were just overwhelmed with the size of this to some degree.”
On Tuesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory said yesterday was a “good day” for the city, despite the “reckless actions” of those who brought guns to the event. He said city officials would use the experience to ensure “nothing but the best” for future such events.
“Our City Manager Chris Murray will be working with Police, the TTC, other city departments and our sports teams to review the details of yesterday's parade & see how we can improve,” Tory wrote in a Twitter post.