W5: Family living through 'life sentence' after Eaton Centre shooting
Connor Stevenson was just 13 years old when he was caught in the crossfire of a deadly shooting. He didn't know it, but while he was buying lunch inside the food court at Toronto’s Eaton Centre, he was just steps from the gunman and moments later, he was shot in the head.
W5 followed his amazing recovery over several months. He survived four surgeries and over 1,000 stitches. Now, two-and-a-half years after the shooting, there are still lasting effects.
“He still has bullet shards in his head and they could shift or his body could react to those in any way in the future,” said Taylor Stevenson, Connor’s 17-year-old sister. "I want to make sure that he’s safe and he doesn’t get hurt again”.
Connor’s mom, Jo-Anne Finney shares that concern for her son.
“Every day I worry about, you know, is Connor going to hit his head? If he hits his head you know it could be fatal.”
Another lasting effect: the way they see the world around them.
“Every day when I'm out I think, does the guy next to me have a loaded gun? The simplest things in life are now all looked at differently” said Jo-Anne.
“That gunshot was the start of the snowball effect. And that was all the surgeries, all the pain and suffering that came along with that”, said Connor’s dad Craig. “We've been impacted by that day for life.”
They call it their life sentence.
The gunman is also now serving life. Christopher Husbands killed two people and wounded five others when he opened fire in the crowded mall. He was convicted on two counts of second-degree murder and five counts of aggravated assault.
Following the trial, W5 sat down with the Stevenson family as they try to now put this behind them. Surveillance video of the shooting was made public during the nine-week trial, but as witnesses in the court’s case, Connor’s family hadn't seen it until they watched it with W5's cameras rolling.
Jo-Anne found the video chilling. “When I look at the video and I see how close we were standing next to him, you know his gun was right here. How did I not know?” said Jo-Anne. “It causes me to think you know, how many other times are you in a situation that you just dodge?”
Connor was a ski racer before the shooting and had to give that up because of the risk of skiing at such high speeds. "There’s certainly things that I would go and be like oh I guess I can’t do that because that’d be pretty dangerous,” he said.
"I try not to be overly cautious."
Remarkably, Connor has continued to do what he loves by becoming a ski instructor.
"I think Connor's proof that you really can overcome huge obstacles that happen" said Taylor.
Jo-Anne certainly agrees: "I do really think Connor’s a superhero. I’m kind of in awe of the kids really."
As for Craig, he’s thankful to both Connor and Taylor. "I think they’ve really provided us that stability, that strength, to help get through this. It’s been very difficult but you know, their strength has really helped us get through it."