Six months after being paralyzed in Danforth shooting, Danielle Kane fights for a new life
After hearing that people lay injured and bleeding along Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, Danielle Kane and her boyfriend rushed to help only to come face-to-face with Faisal Hussain outside an Italian restaurant where they had been eating.
“As soon as I made eye contact with him he decided to shoot,” Kane told Global News. “He didn’t hesitate. He didn’t waste time.”
It’s been six months since Hussain opened fire on a Sunday night, killing 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and Reese Fallon, 18.
WATCH: Danforth shooting survivor talks about recovery since incident
Kane was among the 13 wounded. A bullet tore through her stomach and shattered a portion of her spine, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
“He shot me immediately,” Kane said. “I fell in the doorway of the restaurant. I knew at that moment I couldn’t feel my legs. I had a feeling it might be a permanent injury.”
The bullet shattered a vertebra in her lower back. She spent 11 days in an intensive care unit at St. Michael’s hospital and underwent four surgeries before spending another 35 days at a neuro trauma unit.
She said the last half-year has been a painful journey to adjust to a new life with a wheelchair. Yet, through the hours of painful surgeries, physio and therapy she has maintained a positive outlook on the future ahead.
“We’ve come a long way in six months. My recovery has come a long way, but at the same time obviously my life is very different than it was,” Kane said, adding that she still experiences constant back pain.
WATCH: Boyfriend of Danforth shooting survivor says she’s ‘proved her resolve’ in wake of incident
Learning to manage everyday activities — like going up and down stairs in a wheelchair — has been a struggle, but one that her boyfriend Jerry Pinksen, a Toronto nurse, has been at her side for.
“This whole thing really just proved her resolve, her strength, her courage, her genuineness and willing to forgive and be compassionate,” he said. “Just whatever I can do; physical support, emotional or mental support.
“Just hopefully she can have a better day than last day.”
Police continue to search for a motive
Investigators have yet to provide a motive for the rampage, but what is known about Hussain’s life has been laid out in a series of search warrant applications filed by police.
The lone gunman was the subject of several police reports dating back as far as 2010, when he was reported three times as an emotionally disturbed person, according to the documents. And just two days before the shooting, he was arrested and released for shoplifting.
In an interview with police, Hussain’s twin brother told investigators his sibling had once robbed a store with a gun and had called police to say he wanted to kill himself.
“For the last couple years, Faisal has had no real friends,” the brother said, according to the documents. “He started attending the mosque with his father but did not seem that interested in religion.”
Hussain’s mother said her son saw a psychiatrist, but his father told police he didn’t have any mental health issues, according to the documents.
Hussain’s twin brother added that although Hussain had shown an interest in guns and violence when he was “younger,” he didn’t know how he would have obtained one.
Unredacted versions of the court documents released last week revealed police found a cache of ammunition and a collection of conspiracy theory DVDs in Hussain’s bedroom. Police said they found two fully loaded AK-47 magazines, two loaded drum magazines and three fully loaded extended magazines
Evidence of a possible motive could be contained in the cell phones, computers, and tablets owned by Hussain, which police are still going through.
“Faisal’s only companions appear to be his parents and they do not even know him that well and what he has been up to,” Det.-Const. Bobbi-Jo McKillop said in the document seeking authorization to examine Hussain’s electronic devices.
“The only way of understanding the true extent of what occurred or was planned is to go to the only place Hussain spent time which is on these devices.”
The RCMP and Toronto police have said there is currently no evidence to suggest the Danforth shooting was connected to terrorism.
Where did the handgun come from?
The Danforth shooting touched off a national debate about handguns, with some calling for a complete ban, as well as calls for better tracking of statistics related to crime guns in Canada.
Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Bill Blair has spent the last several months consulting with stakeholders across the country, looking for ways to restrict access to firearms for gang members and other criminals. He said he hoped to make a recommendation to cabinet in the coming weeks.
Exactly how Hussain obtained the weapon used to shoot 15 people has not been officially revealed by police. Global News has reported the .40 calibre Smith and Wesson was stolen during a break and enter at a gun store in Saskatchewan.
Court documents have also revealed Hussain’s older brother Fahad was facing drug and weapons charges when he went into a coma in 2017 following a suspected overdose.
Fahad Hussain was charged with trafficking crack cocaine in 2015 in Saskatoon, Sask., according to prosecutors. Fahad’s case was forwarded to Ontario, where he was ordered to live at a Thorncliffe Park address with his parents as part of his release.
He was arrested in February 2017 for breaching his bail conditions after he was allegedly found to be in possession of shotgun shells. Fahad was then ordered to live in Pickering, Ont., with his surety, Maisum Ansari, 33.
On Sept. 20, 2017, Durham Regional Police executed a search warrant at Ansari’s address, where they discovered 33 guns and seized 42 kilograms of what was later identified as the lethal opioid carfentanil, believed to be 100 times more potent than fentanyl.
New documents show that weapons confiscated in the raid included 31 vacuum-sealed semi-automatic handguns, two rifles, 38 over-capacity magazines and 200 rounds of ammunition.
They also include photos of the suspected carfentanil found in the basement of the home.
Police have not commented on the seizure or whether there is any connection to the Danforth shooting.
Ansari and another man, Babar Ali, 30, face hundreds of related charges and their cases are still before the courts.
“We understand the concerns raised due to the partial release of this information but once our work is complete, there will be a more fulsome understanding of this incident.”
Police have not offered a timetable on when their report might be finished.
SIU and Toronto police investigations
Last week, the SIU released its report concluding that police officers acted appropriately when they encountered and exchanged gunfire on the night of July 22.
“The 911 communications centre was immediately flooded with other callers reporting a shooting on Danforth Ave. and that people were running or injured,” the report said. “One caller indicated that the shooter, Mr. Hussain, had stood on top of a woman and shot her multiple times in the back.”
READ MORE: SIU report details death of Danforth killer
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SIU director Tony Loparco said Hussain “decided to kill himself rather than surrender to police.” The SIU found the officers’ “use of force was entirely appropriate under the circumstances.”
“Hussain was actively shooting at the officers, creating an immediate and significant threat,” Loparco said. “It was reasonably necessary for the police officers to discharge their firearms in an ultimately failed attempt to neutralize the threat.”
The report identified the handgun used by Hussain as a black .40-calibre Smith and Wesson. Two fully loaded handgun magazines were located near his body, according to the report, along with three more in a black bag.
Toronto police have been carrying out a parallel investigation into whether anyone aside from Hussain was involved, a motive, how he obtained the weapon, and whether anyone had a role in providing the gun and bullets.
Police Chief Mark Saunders has said that its officers were continuing work on “this large-scale investigation,” but has not offered a timeline for when their work will be completed.
“We have committed to releasing a full investigative report when our work is done,” Saunders said in a statement. “The information released by the courts only represents the very early stages of our investigative efforts. We understand the concerns raised due to the partial release of this information but once our work is complete, there will be a more fulsome understanding of this incident.”
Moving on from tragedy
Meanwhile, scars from the night of the shooting — windows riddled with bullet holes and broken doors — have been replaced on the Danforth, as the bustling community known for its bars and restaurants has returned to normal.
Makeshift tributes for the victims have been removed but a permanent memorial will be erected following consultations with the victims’ families and community members.
Kane and Pinksen moved from an apartment in east-end Toronto to a more accessible condo in the city’s west end. They say there might never be any answers in the tragedy and that Kane has forgiven Hussain.
“I needed to forgive him and I have because I don’t have that energy to hate him. I need that for myself,” she said. “I was a whole person before this happened to me and I’m ready to move on.”
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