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13 injured, 2 dead in Danforth shooting

Over a dozen people are injured and two victims have died following a Toronto shooting that took place on July 22 at approximately 10:00 p.m. in the Greektown neighbourhood.

An unnamed 29-year-old shooter was armed with a handgun and open fired on pedestrians in Toronto’s popular Danforth and Broadview area. The shooter was also pronounced dead in a nearby alleyway after an altercation with police, though reports have yet to confirm whether he died from police gunfire or if he took his own life.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Toronto Mayor John Tory spoke with reporters following the attack.

“Approximately 15 people have been hit with gunfire,” Saunders told reporters. “There are 15 in total. One is the alleged suspect, the other 14 are victims. I can tell you that one has succumb to their injuries at this point in time. A young girl is in critical state right now and the other 13 are in hospital and being treated.”

Regarding motive, Saunders told reporters that he’s keeping every option open. “I’m looking at absolutely every possible motive for this. When you have this many people that are struck by gunfire, it’s a grave concern. I certainly want to find out exactly what it is, so I’m not closing any doors or any chapters on this,” he said. “I certainly don’t want to speculate as well. Once we have a better concrete picture of exactly what happened and what the motivation was behind it, we definitely will be having a further conversation on that.”

He added that he didn’t believe the shooting was random. “I’m not calling it random. This person was here and he definitely shot. I don’t know why he did what he did,” he said.

Saunders also asked any witnesses to come forward, including those who may have dash cam footage.

Mayor Tory then spoke with reporters, saying that he wanted to reiterate a few points from Saunders. “First of all, people should not reach any conclusions because the police themselves have not drawn any conclusions as to exactly what happened here and why,” he said. He added that he also wanted to reiterate Saunders’ call for help from any witnesses who may have seen something.

“Please don’t draw any conclusions, please wait for the police to do their job,” he continued. “They have plenty of police resources here.”

He added that the families of the victims have the city’s thoughts and prayers.

The Danforth shooting comes just three months after Toronto’s deadly van attack. When reporters questioned what Tory had to say to those who were still recovering from the previous attack, he said, “It’s almost inconceivable these kinds of things can happen. We were too used to living in a city where these things didn’t happen and we saw them going on in the world around us we thought they didn’t happen here, or couldn’t, or shouldn’t.”

“I can just say to people that they should try to stay calm while the police do their job because we have to figure out what happened here. We don’t know.” he continued. “[…] Please just comfort your fellow Torontonian. These things, you can never brush them away and I’m angry about them. I’m angry when these kinds of things happen in the city and lots of people would be angry about it.”

Tory added that Toronto has a gun problem and that firearms are too readily available to people who aren’t the police. “We clearly have to do more about to because there are too many people who are carrying around guns and using them in whatever manner they use them in whatever connection,” he said. “That’s part of what we shouldn’t conclude, just that there was a gun used. We have a gun problem and I just hope every step is going to be taken by all those who have responsibility.”

Video footage of the shooter opening fire on civilians was posted to Twitter in a four-second clip.

Premier Doug Ford tweeted out as well saying that his heart went out to the victims and thanking the Toronto police for responding so quickly.

Ontario minister wears bulletproof vest to Jane & Finch, causing backlash

Michael Tibollo, the Ontario PC Party’s minister of community safety and correctional services, said that he wore a bulletproof vest while visiting Jane and Finch, prompting leaders to call his remarks racist and ask for a comment withdrawal.

Ontario’s PC minister of community safety and correctional services visited the Jane and Finch area on July 7. He tweeted about the experience, saying, “I had the opportunity to travel around 31 Division and learn about the great work of our police force. We are committed to work with our Police to ensure safe neighborhoods free of guns and gang violence. Glad to have Premier Ford join me and hear his concerns as well.”

Premier Doug Ford also tweeted about the experience. “Enjoyed meeting with the great community members in the Driftwood neighbourhood yesterday along with Minister @MichaelTibollo and officers from 31 Division. We are focused on building strong connections between communities and our police services,” he wrote.

During a question period in Queen’s Park on July 18, Tibollo said that he wore a bulletproof vest before entering the Jane and Finch area in response to a question about carding (incidents where people – often minorities – are stopped by police for no reason). The question came from Brampton North NDP MPP Kevin Yarde.

Yarde asked, “Mr. Speaker. I personally have been carded. […] New Democrats have long been advocating for the end of carding as a first step in addressing systemic racism. […] Will you be making changes to allow even more carding to take place on Ontario streets or will you work to stamp out carding?”

Tibollo responded, “I went out to Jane and Finch, put on a bulletproof vest and spent 7:00 to 1:00 in the morning visiting sites that had previously had bullet-ridden people killed in the middle of the night.”

During a question period later in the day, Tibollo added, “They’re surrounded by drug deals, one of which I saw take place while I was there. It was absolutely horrifying.”

“The police need tools to work with, they are doing an incredible job ensuring that our streets are safe. And it’s our job — I’m not a police officer — but what I can tell you is they need skills, they need tools to work with,” he added. “Our work will be to ensure working with the communities to make sure we build trust and that we have those tools provided to them to be able to do their jobs properly.”

Opposing party leader, Andrea Horwath, tweeted about Tibollo’s comments, calling them racist. “Conservative minister Michael Tibollo’s comment this morning about wearing a bulletproof vest at Jane and Finch is inexcusably racist. Anyone who would say something so divisive has no credibility to continue to oversee Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate.”

Tibollo responded about an hour later writing, “Any attempt to spin my comments this morning, is petty partisan politics. I am proud to support our police, and I will continue to work with communities and front line officers to make sure our neighbourhoods are safe.”

However, Horwath isn’t the only opposing Ontario leader who criticized Tibollo’s actions. Yarde also called for a retraction of the comment. In response to reporters, he drew on personal experience, saying that he was pulled over seven years ago in Mississauga for no reason. “Depending on who you’re asking and as an African-Canadian, I thought it was a racist comment,” Yarde said. “It was a surprise to hear comments such as that coming from the minister of community safety and correctional services.”

Alok Mukherjee, the former chair of the Toronto Police Services Board also tweeted out that wearing a bulletproof vest during a ride-along is not standard. “Since when is this a standard procedure? I did not wear a vest in my ridealongs all over the city,” he tweeted.

Deputy Premier Christine Elliot defended Tibollo, saying that she didn’t think Tibollo intended on an offensive comment. “I think what he is speaking about is needing to go to communities to understand what’s happening, to understand how people have been hit by violence, gun violence in their neighbourhood,” she told reporters.

Police resume normal operations after Toronto concerns

Normal police operations have resumed after Toronto’s force responded to threats of a van attack occurring at the CN Tower and surrounding areas.

On July 12, Toronto police received a threat suggesting that a copycat van attack would take place near the CN Tower and surrounding areas. Toronto was already struck with tragedy in April when Alek Minassian deliberately drove a rental truck into pedestrians near Yonge and Finch. He killed 10 people and injured another 16, making it one of the deadliest attacks in Canadian history.

The police report, which was obtained by several publications, stated that “On Wednesday, July 11th, 2018, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) received credible information regarding a potential vehicle ramming attack in the area of the CN Tower on Thursday, July 12th.” It continued that the TPS would increase the number of police patrolling the surrounding areas.

A tweet was published by Toronto police at 9:30 a.m. on July 12 stating: “We are responding to an unconfirmed, uncorroborated piece of information relating to the GTA. As a result of this information, you will see an increased number of police officers throughout the city and, specifically, in the downtown core ^sm”

Premier Doug Ford also released a statement on Twitter saying, “We are aware of the reported potential threat in the City of Toronto. While the information is unsubstantiated, the Premier has been briefed by the Provincial Security Advisor and is actively monitoring the situation.”

TPS added that a statement would be provided to reporters at 11:30 a.m. in Bobby Rosenfeld Park. Acting superintendent Mike Barksy spoke with reporters at the time.

“As such, we have increased what we call our ‘footprint of police presence’ in the downtown core,” he said. It was also said that police presence has already increased in the areas surrounding the CN Tower, Rogers Centre and Ripley’s Aquarium due to the playoffs.

When asked by reporters what specific buildings were targeted, police would not comment as it related to their investigation. “Whenever we have a report of a potential risk, we take that seriously. And because of that, we know that the downtown core of Toronto is a significant area for people who travel to the city, live in the city, and come to the visit the city,” Barsky told reporters. “And as such, we’ve called upon our partners from neighbouring police divisions to come and assist us in ensuring that people can continue to come down and enjoy those luxuries.”

They added that shops and hot spots were still open in the surrounding areas at the time and that one of the biggest events of the night, the Foo Fighters concert, was not cancelled. Hondo Indy Toronto also tweeted out that their event remained open and they were following a site and security plan.

Around the time of the press conference, Metrolinx also released a statement saying, “safety of our customers and staff is central to everything we do at Metrolinx.” Their statement also included reassurance that transit safety officers were deployed in “important areas of service to ensure passenger and staff safety.”

Late Thursday evening Toronto police released a statement saying that they were resuming normal police operations in the area. “We know this heightened security can be concerning for the public. Our goal is always to be as transparent as possible while protecting the integrity of our investigations,” it read.

Toronto leaders speak out amidst current gun violence

After the weekend shooting in Toronto’s Kensington Market, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, Premier Doug Ford, and Mayor John Tory have released statements on the current state of the city.

On Saturday evening around 8:00 p.m., shots rang out at Peter Street and Queen Street West and left two rappers dead and one woman in the hospital. The two rappers were identified as Smoke Dawg (Jahvante Smart), 21, and Koba Prime (Ernest Modekwe), 28.

The violence didn’t end on Saturday, however. On Sunday, police were called to the College Street and Augusta Avenue area when shots rang out around 10:30 p.m. Reports say that four people were injured during the crime. After the shooting, four suspects were seen fleeing the scene but police have yet to release a description of them.

Since the shootings took place on Canada Day, one of the busiest times in Toronto, Chief Saunders spoke with CP24 about the gun violence. “This is not the norm,” he told CP24. “Right in broad daylight on some of the busiest intersections of our city where there is gunplay. The gunplay usually occurs at night in particular neighbourhoods where there is not as much capacity of people. The brazenness is a concern.”

He added that the violence can be traced back to gang violence. “This is pointed to specific people. A random person walking down the street, it is highly unlikely that they are going to be in harm’s way,” he added.

A statement released by Tory read: “The unacceptable gun violence we’ve seen in the last few weeks has left me incredibly angry but resolved to work with the police to stamp it out. As Mayor, the safety of our city is my top priority and one that I share with Chief Mark Saunders and the men and women of the Toronto Police Service. That’s why we’re hiring 200 police officers this year, why I’ve always advocated for tougher gun control and tougher bail conditions for gun crime, and why we’re modernizing the police service to ensure there are more officers patrolling the streets.”

He added that he spoke with Chief Saunders who said that police are working to get to the bottom of the crimes. He also said that he plans to reach out to Premier Doug Ford and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to discuss how they can better their efforts to combat gang violence.

“As I said at City Council last week, we need to toughen up bail guidelines for those caught committing gun crimes. Countless police officers – from constables to the Chief himself – have told me how frustrated they are by the fact someone they arrest for a gun crime can be back out on the street on bail quickly and ready to cause more mayhem. That is not right and that is something we can stop right now,” the statement also read.

Tory added that the city leaders need to work together to deploy more police and support law enforcement to keep criminals behind bars.

On Monday Ford released a statement on Twitter saying: “My heart goes out to the victims of the shootings in Toronto over the Canada Day long weekend. This has been a very difficult summer in our city, and thoughts and prayers just aren’t going to cut it anymore. We need action.” He added that Toronto is home to the greatest police officers and “we need to make sure they have the resources to round up these criminals, build relationships in communities, and prevent these shootings.” He concluded his statement by saying he looks forward to meeting with representatives from Toronto police forces to city leaders and law enforcement can work together to end “this senseless violence.”

Hopefully, Toronto’s leaders can band together to successfully get to the bottom of the gun violence currently happening in the city and make its citizens feel safe again.