Toronto, July 23 (IANS) One woman was killed and 14 people were injured after a lone gunman walked along Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue, randomly shot at pedestrians before opening fire on crowded restaurants, Canadian authorities said.
The shooter died in a nearby alley after an exchange of gunfire with police on Sunday night, though it remained unclear if he was shot or died by suicide. His identity was not released, the Canadian media reported on Monday.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the man used a handgun, but refused to speculate on a motive. The mass shooting came just three months after a random van attack in the city killed 10 people.
Saunders said a young woman died in the attack and several more victims were gravely wounded. An eight or nine years old girl was in critical condition.
According to the Globe and Mail daily, the shooting spree lasted just minutes but spanned blocks, sparking terror across the busy Greektown neighbourhood around 10 p.m. as diners and patrons ran for cover, some initially mistaking the gunshots as fire crackers.
In a video clip shared by the Canadian media, a white man wearing a dark cap and dark clothing and carrying a shoulder bag can be seen stopping on a pavement and pulling out a handgun before firing shots.
Witness Andrew Mantzios had been drinking coffee with friends by the fountain at Danforth and Logan Avenues — a popular gathering spot for residents — when he heard shots and turned around to see the gunman coming towards his group.
“He had this horrible expression on his face,” Mantzios was quoted as saying by the daily. The gunman fired at a crowd of people waiting to cross the street.
“And then a lady tried to run and she fell down. He turned around and shot her point blank, two or three times. People were falling all over the place — maybe seven, eight, nine of them,” he said.
A number of people were reportedly hurt in a cafe called the Demetres while others were hit in the street.
Witness Jody Steinhauer told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp she was at a restaurant on Danforth Avenue with her family when she heard what sounded like 10 to 15 firecracker blasts.
Toronto Mayor John Tory condemned the “despicable” attack on “people innocently enjoying a Sunday evening”. The Premier of the province of Ontario, Doug Ford, tweeted a message of support to the victims.
Toronto is grappling with a sharp rise in gun violence. There have been 26 deaths from gun violence in the city so far this year, a 53 per cent increase from the same period last year, with the number of shootings rising 13 per cent, according to police data.