What we know so far about Faisal Hussain
From the outside, Faisal Hussain appeared to be living a normal life for a 29 year old.
People who knew him say he was unflinchingly polite, had a smile that could light up a room, and worked multiple jobs including at a Loblaws grocery store to help take care of his aging parents.
Only the people closest to Hussain knew that he had spent most of his life battling depression, psychosis and other mental health issues – and not even the people who knew about that had any reason to think he was planning a mass shooting.
“I can’t put two and two together. I can’t believe it’s him,” friend Aamir Sukhera told reporters Monday.
Hussain has been named by investigators as the man who opened fire on Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue late Sunday night, shooting pedestrians as well as people in restaurants and cafes.
Reese Fallon, an 18-year-old woman about to start nursing school, was killed, as was a 10-year-old girl. Thirteen other people were injured.
Hussain also died after exchanging gunfire with police officers. A source close to his family said Wednesday that Hussain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Sources told CTV Toronto that Hussain was previously investigated by police amid concerns about his mental health. CP24 reports that police were contacted by school officials at Victoria Park Collegiate in 2010 over comments he made about being the Joker from the Batman movie, and about liking death and explosions.
One of his former teachers told CTV Toronto that Hussein once told him: “I want to kill someone.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was asked Monday whether Hussain was on any watch lists.
“As far as we’re aware at this stage based on the state of the investigation, which by the way is led by the Toronto Police Service, there is no connection between that individual and national security,” Goodale said.
Toronto Police Det. Sgt. Terry Brown, who is the lead investigator on the case, said on Monday afternoon that he “can’t speak to what’s in this individual’s mind” and encouraged people to “be cautious” about jumping to conclusions about “who this person is and what they belong to.”
Hussain’s family released a statement Monday decrying the “horrific actions” of Faisal Hussain and offering condolences to the people hurt and killed in the shooting.
“We are utterly devastated by the incomprehensible news that our son was responsible for the senseless violence and loss of life that took place on the Danforth,” the family said.
According to the family, Hussain struggled with “severe mental health challenges” with neither medication nor therapy able to improve his condition.
“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 reads.
On Tuesday evening, the family released a photo of Hussain to the media through a spokesperson, who said the image is approximately two years old.
Hussain lived with his parents in a seventh-floor apartment in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, a few kilometres north of the Danforth. Police executed a search warrant at the apartment on Monday and were seen removing boxes of evidence from the building.
Ashley Robinson, who lives in the building, said she immediately recognized Hussain in videos of Sunday’s shooting because of his hat and beard.
“I started tearing up, because I knew who that was,” she said.
Hussain was one of four children. Neighbours say he had a sister who died unexpectedly and a brother who is in a coma. One neighbour, Sadaf Pathan, said Hussain’s father also appeared to be dealing with health issues. The family’s circumstances appeared to weigh heavily on Hussain’s mother.
“She always has a very serious look on her face, and she looks like she’s in so much pain,” Pathan told The Canadian Press.
Mohammed Hashim, a liason for Hussain’s family, said they moved back to Pakistan for a few years when he was a child. He also said Hussain returned to Pakistan for a few months 10 years ago.
Sukhera said his relationship with Hussain stretched back to Hussain’s childhood. He said he had helped Hussain join a Toastmasters group to become more outgoing, and Hussain had confided in him about his mental health issues several years ago – which surprised Sukhera, who had always thought of his friend as “upbeat and happy.”
The last time they saw each other was three weeks ago. Sukhera said Hussain was worried that his hours were being cut at the grocery store he worked at, and said he had to find another way to make money, but did not display any obvious signs of misery.
“It seemed like he was doing well,” Sukhera said.
Police said Monday that they had yet to determine the motive behind the shooting. Experts said the attack did not bear any hallmarks of gang-related activity.
There are currently two ongoing investigations. The first by Toronto police into the Sunday night shooting and its perpetrator. The second by the province’s Special Investigations Unit, who are examining the role of police in the interaction which resulted in Hussain’s death. It is not yet known whether police shot Hussain or if Hussain shot himself.
People in the area, meanwhile, say they are frustrated there haven’t been more answers. A photo of Hussain is yet to be released by police.
John Aruldason, who witnessed the shooting, described Hussain’s movements as “very casual” as he made his way down the Danforth.
“If you didn’t see the gun in his hand, there would be no reason to pick him out of a crowd,” he said.
Another witness described seeing the gunman zig-zag across the street, seemingly searching out “easy targets.”
Video taken at the scene shows Hussain demonstrating a level of familiarity with his weapon, as he was able to aim and reload the gun quickly and efficiently.
With files from CTV Toronto and The Canadian Press