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Husband of Toronto mother struck by stray bullet opens up about grief of life without her


The husband of a woman and mother of two young daughters who was killed in Toronto’s east-end this summer is opening up about the grief that he lives with and the circumstances that led up to the tragedy.

Caroline Huebner-Makurat, 44, was on her way to lunch on July 7 when she was hit by a stray bullet near the intersection of Queen Street East and Carlaw Avenue following a daytime shooting involving two male suspects. She was rushed to hospital but was later pronounced dead.

Her husband, Adrian Makurat, spoke exclusively with CTV News Toronto last week about the shooting and how he will ultimately remember his wife of nine years.

The emotional interview was done in the Haliburton area ahead of Wilderness Traverse, a gruelling 24-hour adventure team race through Ontario’s backcountry on foot, by bike and canoe that Makurat was participating in. 

“You never know when you may not be able to speak to someone again, and I know what the last few words that I said to Caroline were. It was something special and I’ll forever remember that,” Makurat said.

“Now it’s about what she won’t see. What she won’t be able to accomplish, where she won’t be able to go, what she won’t be able to feel.”

Makurat attributes the way he has managed since Caroline’s death to his experience facing physical and mental adversity, with Polish Scouts and through 20 years of adventure racing.

He said that in past years Caroline followed the wilderness race from home as GPS trackers allow spectators to connect to a website and see how participants are doing. This year his team finished eight overall in the race.

“I look at it as breaking it down into these micro sections, 100 metres, 200 metres. You do what you can in that little section and you replicate it, and if you do that over and over again, you achieve that goal of getting through that stage, and that’s how I relate to my day-to-day life right now,” he said.

Adrian Makurat (centre) is shown after competing in the Wilderness Traverse race last weekend. Makurat recently spoke with CTV News Toronto about the July shooting that claimed the life of his wife of nine years, Caroline Huebner-Makurat. (Supplied)

‘A lot of crying and tears’

Toronto police have previously said that three men got into an altercation at the Leslieville intersection shortly after noon on July 7, which led to two of them firing at each other.

In an update to CTV News Toronto this week, police said that investigators now believe that the incident was the result of a “robbery that escalated into gun violence.”

Two men are facing charges in connection with the shooting.

Speaking with CTV News Toronto, Makurat reflected on the immediate hours after Caroline’s death which included sitting down with his daughters - Claudia who recently turned 8, and Nella, turning 5 this October - to give them the news.

“I told them I loved them very much and that mom’s not going to be coming home, that she unfortunately passed away, and that we have each other. I’ll be there for them for everything. A lot of crying and tears, questions,” he said.

Tragic death the result of ‘a series of unimaginable events’

In the days and weeks after the shooting, much of the public attention focused on the South Riverdale Community Health Centre [SRCHC].

The building is steps away from where the shots were fired. Inside, there is a safe injection site, which opened in 2017 under a federal exemption as the opioid crisis was growing. Some have blamed the site for attracting unwanted criminal activity outside the centre.

Ontario’s ministry of health launched a “critical incident review” of supervised consumption centres in the province following Huebner-Makurat’s death.

On Thursday, Ontario's associate minister for mental health confirmed that the province has paused approving new supervised consumption and treatment sites while that review is underway.

Makurat, however, doesn’t blame the facility for what happened to Caroline. He said that he has lived near the corner for eight or nine years and was never even aware of the presence of the site.

He added that when he returned to the spot one week after the shooting he “quickly realized that the likelihood of replicating what transpired to Caroline just can’t get replicated.”

“It’s a series of unimaginable events that all came together for whatever reason that might be and Caroline was the tragic result and ending of it,” he said. “We live in a beautiful, unique multicultural city that has so many dynamic, opportunities and challenges at the same time. Unfortunately I got the short end of the straw on urban living where city issues do exist. You can’t avoid them. Is there a perfect solution? I don’t know of that one. But it’s tricky. I don’t think you can’t pint point it down to one thing.”

Caroline had three university degrees

Caroline worked at Air Canada as senior manager, had three university degrees centred in teaching and technology and travelled extensively.

Makurat said that one of the hardest things about her death is knowing that she won’t have the chance “to continue to excel and work” and “see her daughters grow up,”

“She won’t get old. She’ll be beautiful forever,” he said.

“You get these feelings or thoughts, ‘I have to feed my daughters for the next 15 years every meal, decide what clothing they purchase’, I’m sort of beginning, to realize I have to fill both roles and a softer edge side of me is coming through. I give great cuddles, but I’m doing twice the amount of love and support.”

Following Caroline’s death an online fundraiser was launched to help pay for Claudia and Nella’s education.

Makurat said what has stood out is not the approximately $300,000 raised but the sheer number of people - more than 3,600 - who have taken the time do donate, many for small amounts.

As for Claudia and Nella, he said that they are doing "better than expected."

He even took them to Switzerland and Poland to visit relatives this summer. 

“The most important thing is the health, safety and well-being of the girls and I’m going to do exactly that. I’m going to show them the world Caroline would want them to see,” he said.

“For myself, I don’t have a choice. I’m managing as best I can, not just myself but for them, the girls, our immediate family, friends, community. It’s what I got to do, everyday,” he said.

Adrian Makurat (left) is shown with his children Nella (middle) and Claudia (right) during a trip to Switzerland. Makurat recently spoke with CTV News Toronto about the July shooting that claimed the life of his wife of nine years, Caroline Huebner-Makurat. (Supplied)

In a statement provided to CTV News Toronto, the SRCHC said that it has “enhanced safety, and security procedures to address community concerns” following the shooting.

The centre said that they have hired a security company for a one-year contract that’s trained to support those who are unhoused and living with addiction and mental health challenges.

The centre said that staff are also conducting perimeter safety checks, including the safe disposal of drug litter, overdose response, loitering discouragement and crisis de-escalation.

SRCHC said that it has also implemented changes to its external environment, including installing a fence blocking a church parkette next to the site to limit access and adding additional surveillance cameras and mirrors, along with improved lighting around the premise

Meanwhile in a separate statement, a spokesperson for Minister of Health Sylvia Jones said that based on input received so far “there is clear concern that trust has been damaged with South Riverdale Community Health Centre’s” supervised consumption site.

“As the ministry continues the review, we will explore all appropriate options to ensure safe communities for all,” the spokesperson said. Top Stories

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