Funeral held for Toronto mall shooting victim
The man killed in a shooting in the Eaton Centre food court over the weekend is one of more than two dozen young Somali men to perish in violent acts in the last two years, said the imam who presided over his funeral Tuesday.
Ahmed Hassan, 24, was shot dead at the downtown Toronto mall and his death is one too many, Imam Said Ragdeah said outside the west-end mosque where mourners gathered to remember the young man.
"Similar things happen again and again. That's the only concern that we have," Ragdeah told reporters after the funeral. "This is not the first Somali kid that was killed. I think it's the 34th, or something like that."
Police said Hassan had gang ties. A 23-year-old associate of Hassan remained in hospital on Tuesday, recovering from gunshot wounds.
Ragdeah said that there have been similar killings of young Somali men, many of them in Alberta, in what has become an epidemic of violence.
A bloody civil war has raged in Somalia for two decades and Ragdeah said a combination of that war and problems in Canada are leading to continued violence.
"Somalia, for the past 22 years, these kids, they did not get anything but bloodshed, killing people, relatives dying, and so on," said Ragdeah. "Also, I think the problem is right here and we should address the issue as a Somali community."
Six other people were injured in the melee, including a 13-year-old bystander, who remained in hospital recovering from gunshot wounds, and a 28-year-old pregnant woman who was trampled in the evacuation stampede.
Christopher Husbands, 23, of Toronto, has been charged with first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder in the attack, which sent panicked shoppers fleeing as bullets flew.
Investigators said the suspect also had ties to a Toronto street gang, but they do not believe the deadly shooting was part of a gang war.
Instead, Det.-Sgt. Brian Borg said on Monday that investigators suspect the shooting was a targeted attack stemming from a personal issue.
Eaton Centre food court reopens
The newly renovated Urban Eatery, located on the basement level of the busy downtown shopping centre, had been closed since gunfire erupted there Saturday evening.
Those who abandoned possessions as they fled have collected their belongings at a downtown Toronto police station Tuesday.
The property will be available for pickup by those with proper identification at 51 Division headquarters on Parliament Street at Front Street.
Ujjawal Patel was among the dozens of people who abandoned personal belongings at the mall on Saturday.
Patel retrieved his overstuffed backpack from a police headquarters on Tuesday, telling reporters that he felt lucky to have escaped unharmed.
"We just heard the gunshots, four or five, and we ran out. We didn't have time to look behind. It was so close, we were so scared, so we just came out (of the mall)," said Patel.
Julia Lim also attempted to retrieve her belongings from the police station, but was told her cellular phone had not turned up. Lisa Bacchus found herself in a similar situation on Tuesday, but was still focused on the terrifying scene that played out in front of her.
"At that time your mind is just blank. All you think about is ‘get down and get out.' There is nothing going through your mind, you are in a state of panic," she said.
Mark Totten, a gang expert and author of "Nasty, Brutish and Short: The Lives of Gang Members in Canada," says violence between members of the same gang is common.
"What people need to understand is that gang violence is not only directed at rivals. It is also found within the same gang," Totten told CTV's Canada AM. "What we know about gang entry and gang exit is that, for many people, it is a very violent thing.
"Violence within gangs can be triggered by perceived acts of disrespect; it could be fighting over profits from dealing crack cocaine."
Nevertheless, Totten said that public attacks are rare, as gang members typically settle disputes on their own turf. He added that gang-related attacks are generally uncommon in the city and that "gangs are not taking over the City of Toronto."
Husbands, who turned himself in to police early Monday morning, had been under house arrest for a previous charge at the time of the shooting.
He has been remanded into custody until a video appearance scheduled for August 15.