'It's surreal': Witnesses recount chaos after Toronto Greektown mass shooting
Witnesses to Sunday night’s carnage in Greektown say the sound of gunshots brought chaos to an otherwise normal summer night in the popular Toronto neighbourhood.
Gunfire erupted on Danforth Avenue, the heart of Toronto’s Greektown, at around 10 p.m., sending citizens in the busy neighbourhood scrambling for safety.
Toronto police later confirmed that a 10-year-old girl and 18-year-old woman had died in the shooting, and another 13 were injured.
The gunman fled from police and was later found dead on Danforth Avenue. The Special Investigation’s Unit, which is probing the death, would not say whether the shooter died as a result of police gunfire or if his injuries were self-inflicted.
The east Toronto neighbourhood is dotted with popular shops and restaurants and is home to one of the largest street festivals in North America, the Taste of the Danforth. The warm July evening had helped fill the sidewalks, restaurant patios and dining rooms on Sunday.
When the sound of gunshots cut through the otherwise normal summer night, witnesses expressed disbelief and initially presumed the noise was firecrackers.
A visibly distraught woman told reporters that she was on a restaurant patio when the bullets started to ‘fly in front of her face.’
“Bullets everywhere… bullets everywhere,” the woman said, choking back tears. “I just saw bodies going down and I got shoved to the ground.”
Some reported hearing as many as 20 shots.
“I heard a gunshot and one of the customers came running in and told us to duck,” said Jessica Young, who was inside the Second Cup on Danforth Avenue at the time.
“I immediately ducked and saw the shooter through the window… I’m not sure if he saw me but he pointed the gun and started shooting through the window.”
No one inside the coffee shop sustained any injuries.
Andrew Mantzios told CP24 that he was standing about 10 or 15 feet away from the shooter while he was firing. He said he watched the gunman approach a woman who had fallen while trying to escape and shoot her twice “point blank.”
“(He had) long hair, a black hat and a dark shirt with long sleeves rolled up,” he said. “He was skinny but he had this horrible look in his face.”
Catherine Meade was driving down Danforth Avenue with her partner after running an errand when she saw a man in black clothes run across the street in front of her car.
She said the man raised his arm and started shooting. The pair sped off after they saw the “flash of the gun.”
“I didn’t think that he would be shooting at us on purpose... I thought he was aiming for someone along the street, on the sidewalk. I was worried because we’re not all snipers and sharp shooters, people get shot by stray bullets all the time, unintentionally, so I was worried that he would inadvertently hurt us,” she said.
“It wasn’t until we got home that we realized he was randomly shooting at people. He could’ve easily from shooting down to shooting across [shot to where we were].”
One witness said it wasn’t until he saw the glass windows of popular café Demetres Danforth shatter that he realized what was happening.
“He pulled out a black handgun and started shooting through the window just as we were passing him,” one witness said. “It was just one shooter that I saw and he would just zig-sag across the street whenever he saw people he would head for a group and start shooting some easy targets.”
Inside Demetres cafe, panic set in when the gunman aimed into the busy restaurant.
Diana, a waitress working at the time, told CP24 that she was serving a family of four when the restaurant was hit by a barrage of bullets. She said ran into the basement when she heard people yelling and crying.
When she felt it was safe to return to the dining room, Diana said she saw the same family huddled around a girl who was lying on the ground.
“Her mom was crying,” Diana said. “I’m really worried about that little girl because she just started her life.”
Amidst the chaos, some witnesses stepped in to help the wounded and panicked.
Tanya Wilson, the owner of Skin Deep Inked Tattoo Studio in Greektown, was closing up the shop when she heard the gunfire.
Within seconds, she spotted a man and woman “freaking out” near the doorway.
Wilson said she brought the pair into the store and used a piece of clothing to bandage gunshot wounds on both of their legs. When the sound of gunshots stopped, she flagged a police car outside.
“I haven’t gotten any sleep,” Wilson told CP24 via phone. “I just keep replaying the whole situation in my head and thinking if I had left even two seconds earlier that could have been me.”
By Monday morning, a large portion of Danforth Avenue remained taped off with police officers lining side streets and intersections.
Residents in the area waking up to the news expressed fears for their safety and the future of the neighbourhood.
“It’s surreal,” one woman told CP24. “I came home from hockey and my parents were telling me not to take the Danforth. It’s weird. It’s so unfortunate and sad.”
Valia Tseliou, a producer for local Greek radio station CHTO AM 1690, said she was unable to get into her office this morning while police keep an area of Danforth Avenue taped off.
Tseliou said she’s worked in the neighbourhood for “many years” and that the news has devastated her and her coworkers.
“I don’t know what to expect now,” Tseliou said. “In just one day, everything falls apart.”