Witnesses describe chaotic fight scene before suspect shot by Toronto police
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, September 14, 2017 10:14AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 15, 2017 1:02PM EDT
Two people have been hospitalized after a Toronto police officer shot a man allegedly involved in a violent street fight in the city’s Jane and Finch neighbourhood this morning.
The altercation unfolded at the corner of Driftwood Avenue and Cobbler Crescent, just north of Finch Avenue, shortly after 9 a.m.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit has invoked their mandate and has taken over the investigation.
According to SIU spokesperson Jason Gennaro, officers were called to the intersection after receiving reports about an altercation between two men where one person was stabbed multiple times.
When they arrived, Gennaro said there was an “interaction” between the officers and a man.
“A police issued firearm was discharged and the man was struck. The two persons were rushed to hospital,” he told reporters at the scene Thursday. “Since that time, investigators from the SIU have attended the scene and we are collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses.”
Toronto Paramedics said they transported one male to Sunnybrook Hospital with multiple stab wounds. He remains there in serious condition.
A second man was taken to hospital in critical condition. He was suffering from a gunshot wound, they said.
Gennaro did not provide any information on the officer involved in the altercation nor could he confirm the number of shots fired.
He said the investigation is in its “very preliminary” stage.
“This scene will be held for several hours, probably until past the dinner hour,” he said. “There are two investigations ongoing, as you can imagine. There’s the SIU investigation and Toronto police also have a parallel investigation into the stabbing incident.”
Witness said man was ‘so angry’
Nineteen-year-old Alexis said she had just woken up inside her fourth floor apartment near Driftwood Avenue and Cobbler Crescent when she heard a woman scream.
That’s when she ran over to her balcony and saw two men engage in a violent fight.
“There were two people fighting and the other person wasn’t stopping, he just kept hitting the guy. It was awful,” she told CTV News Toronto.
“I think they were fighting over something, I’m not really sure what they were fighting over…I went to the balcony and saw that one of the guys was getting hit in the head.”
Alexis said she heard an officer try to soothe the situation to no avail.
“I’m not sure what I heard but he was definitely trying to calm the person down. He was really trying. (He kept saying) ‘It’s okay, you can stop,’ but the guy just kept hitting the other guy,” she said.
“He was really doing his best and it wasn’t working. The guy was just so angry.”
Chris, who lives across the street from the intersection, also watched the incident unfold.
“First thing the police officer did when he arrived this morning was say, ‘ Hey, stop.’ And then he popped one into the guy,” he told CTV News Toronto.
“Honestly, in my world, if it’s me, it’s okay that the officer shot because the violence was uncalled for. If you doing some act of violence, the police officer is going to step (in) – whether rubber bullet or live ammunition – that’s normal.”
Chris said he saw blood “all over the place.”
“It was brutal. You can’t wake up first thing in the morning and see somebody getting beaten. You see the blood, it’s spilling all over. Every punch there’s a piece of blood flying,” he said.
“It’s terrible for the neighbourhood and I don’t understand why things like that are happening in the community where people are supposed to come together and live as one.”
SIU staying mum for sake of witnesses
Former homicide detective and crime specialist Steve Ryan said the scarce details provided by the Special Investigations Unit is a way of ensuring witnesses aren’t swayed.
“They want to keep everything contained so that when witnesses speak, they talk about what they saw and heard,” he said.
“He knows the information but you don’t want to give that information out because there are a lot of witnesses here. If he says, let’s say, six shots were fired, then maybe the witnesses will just repeat what he said. So they don’t give any information out because it will strength the information the witnesses already have.”
Toronto police and SIU investigators remain at the scene.