Shooting near Nathan Phillips Square leaves four injured, sends crowds scrambling for safety
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders says that four people are being treated for gunshot wounds after a shooting near the Toronto Raptors victory rally in the downtown core.
There were multiple reports of gunshots and stampeding sometime around 3:45 p.m. as thousands of people gathered in Nathan Phillips Square to celebrate the team’s victory.
Police originally said that that two people were found with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries near Bay and Albert streets. Saunders later told reporters that four people had sustained gunshot wounds in connection with the incident and that all the injuries were considered non-life-threatening.
“Officers arrived relatively quickly and as a result of that three people were arrested in total, two on one incident and one on another,” said Saunders.
Investigators also said that two firearms had been recovered. No information has been provided regarding charges.
"Let’s face it, we are talking about a very large crowd and a very large presence of police officers monitoring the crowd," said Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson. “We were able to get to the victims, we were able to get medical help to them….and we were able to make those arrests very, very quickly.”
TTC spokesperson Stuart Green confirmed that two TTC Special constables assisted with an arrest near the entrance to Queen Station.
Video footage from the scene shows people at the rally fleeing the area in all directions. Backpacks, shoes and other items of clothing were left at the scene, scattered across the concrete.
One bystander said that he thought the gunfire was fireworks, but then he started to see people running.
“Everyone started piling over – about 100 people just piling over each other,” he said. “It was so bad, the ground was shaking. Everyone was toppling over. There were screams.”
Another person told CP24 that he heard a “rumbling” just before the stampede of people came his way.
“We were standing watching and we heard this rumbling on the ground and we started to look around to see what was could it be. Then I see everyone behind my mom just getting trampled, everyone’s getting pushed. So I grab my mom,” he said. “My mom was screaming ‘don’t fall, don’t fall. If you don’t fall, we’ll be okay.”
The Raptors announcer took to the stage to pause the celebrations. He told the crowd there was an “an emergency situation” in the area and urged everyone to stay calm. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, and Toronto Mayor John Tory were all on stage at the time of the incident.
The ceremony continued after the short break.
Saunders said the goal of the Toronto Police Services was to keep the rally “celebratory” while still maintaining the ability to transition to a security event if necessary.
“In this particular case, because of that quick apprehensions and the fact that we were able to control the situation to the best of our abilities in a short amount of time, the event was able to go on,” Saunders said. “The vast majority of people got to have a really fun day.”
In a statement, Toronto Mayor John Tory thanked police for their quick response to the shooting.
“It is disappointing and I'm sure a source of anger for more than just me that anyone would carry a gun and discharge it at what was otherwise a joyous celebration,” he said. “I hope those found responsible will be held to account to the full extent that the law permits.”
Police are urging anyone with information or video from the event to contact investigators.
“This did not happen in a vacuum," Saunders told reporters. "This happened in broad open spaces right now where we had over a million people here. We want the witnesses ... we want them to step up and to help us by giving us as much evidence as you have.”
Earlier in the day, four people were injured in two separate stabbing incidents near the Eaton Centre. Police have not made a connection between any of the incidents.