Toronto shooting: Faisal Hussain identified as shooter

A 10-year-old girl and 18-year-old woman were killed after a man with a handgun made his way down a busy stretch of bars and restaurants in Toronto’s Greektown
Maclean's staff, CityNews and the Canadian Press
Toronto Shooting 20180722
Tactical police officers walk along Danforth Avenue at the scene of a mass casualty incident in Toronto on Monday, July 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Originally published: July 23, 8 a.m. Latest update: July 25, 5:54 p.m.

Two people were killed and 12 people were injured after a shooting in a popular Toronto neighbourhood late Sunday that ended with the death of the suspected gunman, authorities said as they worked to determine what motivated the violence.

John Tory, Doug Ford, Bill Blair and Mark Saunders speak at city hall

Mayor John Tory was joined at city hall by Premier Doug Ford, Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair and police chief at Mark Saunders. They spoke to reporters. Watch it here.

The latest police update

Watch Police Chief Mark Saunders’s latest update from Toronto Police headquarters.

Who was the gunman?

On Monday, the provincial Special Investigations Unit identified the shooter as Faisal Hussain, a 29-year-old male from Toronto. Cell phone footage taken during the attack shows a thin man clad in plain, dark pants, jacket and ball cap, carrying a black handbag with a shoulder strap. He is seen walking the sidewalk lined with bar and restaurant patios before stopping, raising a handgun in his right hand and firing into one of the buildings.

While his motive remains unclear, his actions on the video appear both deliberate and indiscriminate. Chief Saunders has asked the public for information on the gunman, or any video residents or businesses in the area might have that might reveal his movements or whereabouts in time leading up the shooting. The man was killed, police say, following an exchange of gun fire with officers. Sources are now reporting that Hussain killed himself.

Statement from the gunman’s family

On Monday afternoon, Hussain’s family released the following statement:

“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.

We are utterly devastated by the incomprehensible news that our son was responsible for the senseless violence and loss of life that took place on the Danforth.

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.”

Who are the victims?

Initially, police said that one person was pronounced dead, but subsequently announced early Monday morning that a second victim had died. Saunders identified the victims as an 18-year-old woman and a 10-year-old girl.

Sources later confirmed that the 18-year-old woman is Reese Fallon and the 10-year-old girl is Julianna Kozis.

Five other victims are being treated at St. Michael’s Hospital. In total, 13 people suffered injuries ranging from minor to serious in nature. Fifteen people, eight female and seven male, were shot. Their ages range from 10 to 59 years old.

Who rushed to help the victims?

Bystanders and business owners in the Greektown area stepped in to help those injured in the shooting.

Tanya Wilson, owner of Skin Deep Inked Tattoo Studio on Danforth, described helping an injured older woman and young man. She let them into her studio, donned surgical gloves and tried to treat their wounds with makeshift tourniquets.

“I ran to the back and found an article of clothing. I tied up above the wound and I just tried to keep them calm while I could try to reach police or ambulance, which was nearly impossible, I assume because everybody else was phoning at the same time,” she told CP24.

Michael Kozaris was working inside Mezes restaurant, located on the north side of Danforth when he heard the gunshots. His co-worker Nick was shot while outside and came indoors with his hand bleeding.

Kozaris called 911 but was on hold for several minutes. Finally, a friend drove his coworker Nick to Michael Garron Hospital. Last he heard, he was being X-rayed and the bullet was still lodged in his hand.

Jody Steinhauer was celebrating her birthday at a restaurant on Danforth when the shooting occurred. “We just got all of the kids and everybody to the back of the restaurant, under tables. Everything just happened so fast, it was frightening,” she said.

She said that her boyfriend rushed out to the sidewalk to help one of the victims. “We heard a scream and one of the victims was shot was shot right outside (our restaurant), and he went out and helped her with one of the people from the restaurant and carried her into the restaurant.”

Who’s investigating the shooting?

Saunders deferred to the province’s Special Investigations Unit, which investigates incidents involving police that result in death or serious injury, on the circumstances surrounding the death of the suspected shooter. An SIU news release confirmed six investigators and three forensic investigators were assigned to the shooting.

Toronto Police will investigate the shootings themselves. “It is a bit of a dance between the two entities,” Saunders told reporters on Monday. “We’ve got the substantive murder investigations, plus the shootings. There has to be some work in concert.”

How can you help?

Toronto Police are asking any members of the public who have information about the incident to contact their tip line at 416-808-2222 or through their website.

If you’re able to, donate to Canadian Blood Services. They’re accepting donations, both monetary and in blood.

In addition, a community member with the help of local city councillors Paula Fletcher and Mary Fragedakis has started a GoFundMe page to support the victims and their families with medical and funeral expenses, as well as lost wages.

What else we know so far

The incident began around 10 p.m. in Toronto’s Greektown neighbourhood, which is filled with restaurants, bars and boutiques.

A man armed with a handgun made his way down busy Danforth Avenue, firing as he went, turning the tranquil scene into one of chaos and horror.

Chief Saunders said that a woman was killed and a girl, aged eight or nine, was critically injured.

Many of the other victims were rushed to trauma centres. There was no immediate word on their conditions.

READ MORE: Toronto’s former deputy police chief Peter Sloly on how to achieve safer cities 

Saunders told a media briefing that the shooter had exchanged fire with police officers and died at the scene. He could not immediately confirm whether the gunman was hit by police fire, but he said that no officers were injured.

John Tulloch said he and his brother had just gotten out of their car on Danforth when he heard about 20 to 30 gunshots.

“We just ran. We saw people starting to run so we just ran,” he said.

An army of police, paramedics and other first responders soon descended on the scene, while a crowd of area residents, some in their pyjamas emerged from their homes to see what was going on.

A woman, who only gave her first name as Mary, said she was in the Pantheon Restaurant on Danforth Avenue when she saw a little girl on a stretcher being placed in an ambulance.

Toronto Mayor John Tory joined Chief Mark Saunders at a media briefing on Sunday night.

“Tonight, a despicable act has been perpetrated on the Danforth in our city,” he said. “On behalf of all Toronto residents, I am outraged that someone has unleashed such a terrible attack on our city and people innocently enjoying a Sunday evening.”

Tory thanked the first responders who rushed to the scene, and extended prayers and condolences for the victims on behalf of all Toronto residents.

The mayor later issued a statement saying he’d talked to Ontario Premier Doug Ford who conveyed his condolences on behalf of the province and offered any assistance required.

Tory said this incident hasn’t given much time for the city to heal after 10 people were killed just a few months ago in a van attack.

In April a white van mounted a sidewalk on a busy Toronto street and ran down pedestrians.

Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., now faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder.

“It’s almost inconceivable that these things can happen,” said Tory. “We were so used to living in a city where these things didn’t happen and as we saw them going on in the world around us [we] thought they couldn’t happen here.”

“I can say to people to just try and stay calm while police try to figure out what happened here.”

Just this weekend an additional 200 police officers were deployed in various areas of the city in response to a recent spike in gun violence in Toronto that officials have blamed primarily on gang activity.

What politicians have said about the shooting

Since the beginning of June, Toronto Police have reported 53 shooting incidents and 12 gun-related homicides. In total, the city has seen 58 homicides since the beginning of 2018—29 of which involved firearms. Compared to this time last year, that’s a 71 per cent increase in gun homicides and an 11 per cent increase in shooting incidents.

Less than 24 hours after the Danforth shooting, Toronto police reported that a victim had sustained life-threatening injuries in another shooting, this time in Toronto’s west end.

Last week, Tory announced a $15-million fund from all three levels of government for community violence prevention and victim support programs. The city is also hiring 200 additional police officers this year.

—with files from CityNews and Steve Hennigar, Alanna Rizza and Diana Mehta of The Canadian Press