Toronto Danforth mass shooter identified as Faisal Hussain
UPDATE: July 24, 4:45 p.m. — This story has been updated with new information including a photo of Faisal Hussain as well as information about his interactions with police.
A 29-year-old man opened fire with a handgun in Toronto’s busy Greektown neighbourhood Sunday night, according to Ontario’s police watchdog, leaving at least two dead, and injuring 13 others.
On Monday afternoon, Ontario’s police watchdog named the suspect as Faisal Hussain, of Toronto.
A photo of Hussain was released by his family on Tuesday.
The Special Investigations Unit said the shooting began around 10 p.m., when the gunman began firing at groups of several people as he made his way down Danforth Avenue in the city’s east end.
Toronto police located and exchanged gunfire with the suspect on Bowden Street, near Logan and Broadview avenues, according to the SIU. The man fled the area but was found dead in a nearby alley. It remains unclear if he died by suicide or was killed by police.
Toronto Chief of Police Mark Saunders confirmed Monday afternoon that an 18-year-old woman and 10-year girl were killed in the shooting. Those injured ranged in age from 10-59.
“We do not know why this has happened,” he told reporters.
The parents of Hussain said their son suffered from “severe mental health challenges.”
“We are at a terrible loss for words but we must speak out to express our deepest condolences to the families who are now suffering on account of our son’s horrific actions,” Hussain’s family said in a statement.
“Our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life. The interventions of professionals were unsuccessful. Medications and therapy were unable to treat him. 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.”
“Our hearts are in pieces for the victims and for our city as we all come to grips with this terrible tragedy. We will mourn those who were lost for the rest of our lives,” the statement read.
According to a source who has met the family, Hussain was the son of Canadian parents of Pakistani origin who have been struggling through major challenges.
Hussain’s sister died in a car accident and his brother is hospitalized following a stroke, the source said. Hussain worked in retail and would accompany his mother to the hospital to visit her infirm son.
Hussain didn’t have a criminal record, according to a police source, but he did have a history of mental health concerns from 2010 onwards.
Global News also learned that Hussain, who lived with his parents in a seventh floor apartment on Thorncliffe Park Drive, thought he was the Joker from the Batman movies.
“He was fascinated with death and explosions. He also liked replica handguns,” the police source said.
A family spokesperson disputed this but confirmed to Global News that Hussain did once own a BB gun and loved Batman movies but no more than anyone else.
Police had previously arrested him under the Mental Health Act.
Police were on scene searching an apartment on Thorncliffe Park Drive. Residents of the building who knew Hussain said he was quiet and had a good attitude.
WATCH: Residents of apartment where Danforth shooting suspect believed to have lived express shock
“Let’s put it this way: he’s a working kid. He’s not like the kids standing behind the building smoking weed,” neighbour Khalid Malik told Global News.
They said he worked at a Shoppers Drug Mart nearby, and regularly visits his brother in the hospital.
Homicide Det. Sgt. Terry Browne called the shooting “tragic” and asked anyone with information or video to come forward.
“All of us as members of this community are shocked and alarmed and should be that this has occurred,” Browne said. “It’s a tragic incident. There are many, many, many moving parts and victims to this.”
“We are going to look into the background of that individual,” Browne said. “I’m quite certain there will be frenzy on social media about who this person is and what they belong to. I ask you to be cautious.”
SIU spokeswoman Monica Hudon said in an autopsy has been scheduled for Tuesday at 9:30 a.m.
“How the man sustained his injury and what transpired is part of the investigation,” she said. Six investigators and three forensic investigators have been assigned to the case.
Witnesses posted images and photos of the mass shooting to social media. One video appears to show a man, dressed in dark clothes with a black hat and a bag at his side, walking down the Danforth before raising his arms in front of him as gunshots ring out.
Andreas Mantzios told Global News that the gunman shot a woman as she was trying to run away, before shooting her multiple times as she lay dying on the ground.
“It was horrible. You don’t expect this on Danforth of all places,” he said.
Mantzios, who was having coffee with friends when the incident began, said he saw other people struck by gunfire, and blood everywhere.
“But the guy … had this look on his face, while I saw his profile, like he was screaming at something and shooting.”
WATCH: Video shows alleged gunman in Toronto’s Greektown shooting (WARNING: Disturbing content)
Michael Ryan, who lives in the area, heard several shots and described the scene as “just carnage.”
“It’s like everything you see on TV. It starts hitting you that this is actually happening in front of your apartment,” Ryan told Global News. “It’s pretty crazy.”
Saunders said Sunday night that “everything is open” when it comes to searching for a motive.
“I’m looking at every single possible motive for this,” Saunders told reporters Sunday night. “When you have this many people that are struck by gunfire, it is a grave concern. I certainly want to find out exactly what it is and so I’m not closing any doors or any chapters on this.”
Paramedics said multiple victims were taken to hospitals and trauma centres across the city, including the child, who was transported to the Hospital for Sick Children. Hospital spokespeople said four people were taken to St. Michael’s Hospital and three to Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
Najma Ahmed, acting medical director of trauma at St. Michael’s Hospital, said there are five patients at the hospital and that three underwent “immediate lifesaving surgery” after the shooting.
“All five of our patients remain in serious and critical condition,” she told reporters. “I would like to take this opportunity to thank our first responders and police for their heroic efforts, as well to acknowledge the amazing work done by the nurses and doctors overnight.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory called the shooting an “unspeakable” act and said the time had come to confront the rising prevalence of gun violence in the city.
“Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?” he said in a Monday morning address to city council. “I know answering questions like this won’t fully eliminate tragedies like this, but even if we can prevent one of these incidents, then in my view it is a discussion worth having and having very soon.”
The federal government is looking at introducing stricter handgun laws, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday.
But he said those changes could mean significantly remodelling the Criminal Code.
Meanwhile, at Ontario’s legislature, politicians held a moment of silence for the victims and Premier Doug Ford called the incident the most “brazen” in the city to date.
“As a lifelong Toronto resident I have always been proud to speak up for and to defend this city,” he said. “Unlike so many other places, we’ve always been confident that this is a safe city. Today for too many, this confidence is shaken.”
- With files from Rebecca Joseph and Catherine McDonald
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.