Police, some with guns drawn, conducted an intensive but unsuccessful manhunt after suspects shot a teen in the abdomen just outside a Toronto-area high school Tuesday afternoon.

Chief Bill Blair told reporters on Tuesday that the shooting apparently happened after a fight broke out.

The teen, who is believed to be about 17 years old, is in critical condition at Sunnybrook hospital with his parents by his side.

Police found him in the hallway of Bendale Business and Technical Institute, which is located at 1555 Midland Ave. in the city's northeast.

One witness told reporters at the scene he heard several shots being fired outside Bendale, near the school's parking lot, and then saw a group of teens run inside the school for cover.

Blair said the suspects fled the scene and are not believed to be inside the school.

The shooting prompted dozens of police officers to descend on the scene with tracking dogs in search of the gunman and others who were involved in the fight.

Blair said while the suspects may have fled the scene, he is confident that police will soon catch up with them.

"Yes they have fled for the moment but they have not escaped justice," he told reporters at a news conference outside the school. "We will be talking to them, of that I'm quite confident."

There are several security cameras around the school and in the neighbourhood, Blair said. Police will search the videos for clues to the suspect's identity.

The chief also said that police had received a number of calls from the public and that students were being "tremendously co-operative."

"What has taken place inside the school is not indicative of these students or the school," he said, praising the relationship police have with Bendale.

Bendale, plus several other schools in the Midland and Lawrence Avenues neighbourhood, were locked down since about noon when police were alerted to the shooting. The lockdowns were all lifted just after 2:30 p.m.

The shooting comes the same week as the city launched a pilot project to have uniformed police officers at various schools across the city. However, no police officers were assigned to Bendale.

Gerry Connelly, the director of education at the Toronto District School Board, said the programs put in place to reduce the risk of violence have been effective but that there are never any guarantees.

"We cannot guarantee, 100 per cent, that things won't happen. But we are doing whatever we can," she told reporters at the scene.

Twenty-seven schools had police officers show up as part of a liaison program, but Bendale isn't part of that program. Connelly said the program was designed to foster good relations between students and police.

Police say they are looking for a male suspect who is black and in his late teens. He is about 5'8" or 5'10".

CTV's Austin Delaney said witnesses pointed police towards the fleeing suspects towards Norbury Cres. before turning west to Midland Ave.

One witness, Penny McLean, said two possible suspects showed up in her backyard.

"One took off his shirt and put it in his backpack," she said. "They stood right here and said, 'Oh, it's okay ma'am. Could you just give us a bottle of water. I'm choking, and somebody tried to rob us.'"

McLean told the two they had to leave as she had young children. They leaped over her fence.

Police tracking dogs picked up the scent, but they didn't end up corralling any suspects.

Miller reacts

Mayor David Miller expressed frustration at this latest shooting and said any federal political party that wants support from Toronto will have to spend money to get guns off the street.

"Mothers don't want to see their sons shot. People want to be safe," he said Tuesday.

Millions of dollars have been spent to make airports more secure against possible terrorist attacks, Miller said. "It's time we spent that money at the border to stem the flood of guns from the States."

He repeated his call for a total ban on handgun ownership, including collectors.

With reports from CTV Toronto's Galit Solomon, Austin Delaney and Paul Bliss