Eaton Centre shooting not a gang war, say cops
Published Monday, June 4, 2012 11:06PM EDT Last Updated Monday, June 11, 2012 6:36PM EDT
Toronto police say the deadly Eaton Centre shooting that claimed the life of one person and left several others injured over the weekend was not a gangland attack, but did involve three people with connections to the same crew.
At a news conference on Monday, Det.-Sgt. Brian Borg said a suspect that turned himself in early Monday morning was known to police and was currently sentenced to house arrest on unrelated charges.
Christopher Husbands, 23, of Toronto, appeared in court around 3:30 p.m. to face one count of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder in the deadly attack inside the Eaton Centre food court Saturday evening.
"Our investigation continues to suggest that this is a targeted shooting and not a random act of violence against members of the general public," Borg told a press conference.
"Even though there are several persons who have been identified in this case as being known gang members, or who have gang associations, I do not believe this to be a gang-motivated shooting.
"Beyond saying that, I am not in a position to address aspects going to motive in this shooting."
Gunfire ripped through the Eaton Centre early Saturday evening, causing a panicked stampede as police allege one shooter opened fire, targeting at least one person and injuring several others.
Ahmed Hassan, 24, died of gunshot wounds and a 23-year-old male who police believe was with Hassan at the time of the attack remains in hospital in critical condition after being shot in the neck and chest.
Borg said on Monday that the two victims and the suspected shooter had ties to the same street gang, but would not elaborate further.
Six other people were injured in the mall shooting, including four people who were struck by bullets and a pregnant woman who was trampled in the panicked rush to flee the scene.
A thirteen-year-old boy, a student at Trinity College School in Port Hope, Ont., was shot in the head during the melee and remains in hospital.
His family released a statement Monday saying their son is in fair condition and that he is alert and talking after undergoing brain surgery at the Hospital For Sick Children.
"We want to extend our deepest appreciation and gratitude for the public's concern and well wishes. EMS and the medical team at SickKids acted quickly," the statement read.
"After complicated neurosurgery, we are happy to say that he is doing well, all things considered; he is alert and talking. It will be a long healing process, but we are optimistic that he will recover.
"We thank you for your support and we also ask for our privacy at this time."
The Eaton Centre reopened to the public on Monday after shutting its doors during a police investigation the previous day.
The Urban Eatery food court, where the shootings took place, is expected to remain closed until Tuesday.
Witnesses to the Saturday evening shooting described a quick and methodic outburst of gunshots, followed by a panicked rush for the exits.
Borg thanked the public for assisting in the ongoing investigation and urged more witnesses to come forward.
"I want to emphasize … that regardless of the quick arrest that has been made in this case, by no means is the investigation into the tragic events of last Saturday concluded," Borg said.
"It is therefore extremely important that anyone who has not yet come forward and who has any information not make the assumption that your information is not important, and therefore still contact a member of the investigative team. I urge you to that."
Toronto police have set up a website where witnesses that recorded video and photographs can upload the data for use by police in the investigation.
Police said any property left abandoned in the Urban Eatery has been taken to 51 Division headquarters and can be picked up between 10 a.m. on Tuesday and June 8 with proper identification.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford also spoke with the media on Monday, reminding residents and tourists that the shooting was an isolated incident that should not deter the public from enjoying the city.
"I'd like to thank the Toronto police force for their quick work and the citizens of this great city for all their tips and leads in the arrest of this man. It has been a terrible couple of days, but this is the safest city in the world," Ford said.
"I encourage people to come to the city, to go out, stay at our hotels, eat at our restaurants, go to the museums and catch a game at the Rogers Centre."