With the shooting death of a man in Toronto‘s west end Wednesday morning, the total number of homicides in the city this year has tied a record set almost three decades ago.
Emergency crews were called to Ann Arbour Road, a residential side street east of Weston and Albion roads, shortly after midnight.
“We received several 911 calls for the sound of gunshots,” Toronto police Duty Insp. Jim Gotell told reporters early Wednesday morning.
“Police attended the scene and we located a vehicle with a male victim inside who had been shot.”
A police spokesperson said officers tried to perform life-saving measures, but the victim didn’t have any vital signs.
A Toronto Paramedics spokesperson said the victim, identified by police as 22-year-old Yohannes Brhanu, was shot in the head numerous times.
Paramedics rushed the man to a trauma centre where he succumbed to his injuries.
Investigators said the shooting victim, who was in the driver’s side seat, was parked on Ann Arbour Road when another vehicle approached and began firing.
“The occupant or occupants of this unknown vehicle then commenced shooting Mr. Brhanu as he sat in his car,” Det. Sgt. Mike Carbone told reporters during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.
Police said a passenger in the targeted vehicle began firing back at the suspect’s vehicle. Carbone said another vehicle, which was associated with the victim, was also in the vicinity when the shooting took place.
“Subsequent to this shooting, the individuals that appear to be associated to the deceased commenced shooting back at the vehicle that was fleeing the scene,” Carbone said.
“Essentially it was a gun battle between the offenders who fled, who murdered the deceased, and the people who were associated with the deceased.”
Police said officers continue to canvass the neighbourhood looking for evidence and surveillance. Members of the canine and forensic identification units were called in to assist with the investigation.
Police said Wednesday morning that they arrested a man in connection to the shooting but he has since been released.
Carbone said at least four firearms were fired in the altercation. Police have yet to release any details about the number of suspects involved in the shooting.
Wednesday’s shooting came as Toronto has been plagued with many high-profile gun incidents in 2018.
The man’s death is the city’s 89th homicide, matching the mark for most homicides in a year first set in 1991.
Acting Insp. Hank Idsinga, current head of the Toronto police homicide squad, acknowledged that Toronto seems to be on pace to eclipse the previous record as it wrestles with a spike in gun-related deaths and said police share public concern about the figures.
“The goal is to have no homicides, and the goal is to have 100 per cent solve rate if we do have homicides,” Idsinga told The Canadian Press. “It’s an ongoing battle.”
VIDEO: Toronto Police admit 89 homicides represents ‘startling’ number
Population growth, some unusual incidents and solve rates, however, have to be taken into account, he said.
Idsinga noted that the homicide rate has remained relatively static in the years since 1991 even as the city’s population has grown considerably. Toronto boasted 2.3 million residents in 1991, compared to a population of 2.7 million as of the 2016 census.
Both 1991 and 2018, Idsinga added, were somewhat unusual in that they featured a number of multiple-homicide incidents.
In 1991, the city saw a series of multiple fatalities in and around its Chinatown neighbourhood, Idsinga said, attributing some of the slayings to conflicts between Asian gangs.
Meanwhile, anyone with information about Wednesday’s shooting is asked to call police at 416-808-3100 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.
— With files from David Shum and The Canadian Press