Mall shooting suspect faces first-degree murder charge
Sandie Benitah and Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Monday, June 4, 2012 5:12PM EDT
A suspect accused of killing one man and shooting six others at the Eaton Centre over the weekend was under house arrest at the time of the crime spree, according to Toronto police investigators.
Christopher Husbands, 23, is facing one charge of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder, police confirmed at a news conference Monday afternoon.
Husbands was accompanied by a lawyer when he turned himself in to police at 52 Division at about 2:30 a.m., police said at a news conference. He is expected to make his first court appearance later today.
Homicide Det. Sgt. Brian Borg told reporters Husbands had been in trouble with the law before, but did not discuss what charges he faced.
"At the time of the shooting, Mr. Husbands was a charged individual and on house-arrest conditions, not to be outside of his residence," he said.
The investigator also reiterated the police's earlier claim that the victim who died in the shooting was in fact targeted. However, he said he didn't believe the homicide was related to gang activity, despite the fact that the suspect, the deceased victim and another man who was critically wounded in the shooting all purportedly belong to the same gang.
"This is a targeted shooting, not a random act of violence against the public," Borg said. "I do not believe this is a gang-related homicide. I believe there are personal aspects involved."
Borg said that despite the arrest, police still have a lengthy investigation ahead of them. He urged anyone who took photos or video of the incident to upload their images on the police website.
"More often than not, investigations of this magnitude are lengthy and continue and therefore it's important that anyone who has any information come forward. Don't make an assumption that your information isn't important."
The detective said only one gun was involved in the shooting and police are not looking for any more suspects in connection with the murder.
Parents of teenage victim speak out
Borg also updated the media on how some of the more seriously injured victims were responding to treatment in hospital.
In total, eight people were injured when a gunman opened fire in the mall's north food court just before 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
The deceased, identified as 24-year-old Ahmed Hassan, died as a result of a gunshot injury, an autopsy concluded.
A 23-year-old man remains in hospital in critical condition, suffering from gunshot wounds to the neck and chest.
The condition of a 13-year-old boy who was caught in the crossfire has improved significantly. At first, his injuries were considered life threatening but Borg said he and his family "are doing very well, given all they have endured."
The hospital confirmed that the boy is now in fair condition at hospital and is not in an induced coma.
His parents released a statement to the media Monday, thanking the public for their support.
"We want to extend our deepest appreciation and gratitude for the public's concern and well wishes," the statement said. "EMS and the medical team at SickKids acted quickly to save (his) life. After complicated neurosurgery, we are happy to say that he is doing well, all things considered. He is alert and talking. It will be a long healing process, but we are optimistic that he will recover. We thank you for your support and we also ask for our privacy at this time."
Four other people who were wounded in the shooting suffered serious but non-life threatening injuries.
The suspect will not be charged in connection with injuries sustained by an eighth person -- a pregnant woman whose water broke after she was trampled in a rush to evacuate the mall.
'Still a safe city'
Senior police officials and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford also spoke at the news conference reminding the public about recent crime stats that prove gun violence is on the decline in our city.
Ford called Toronto the "safest city in the world," and encouraged people to continue to go about their lives, visiting the city and frequenting local hot spots like the Eaton Centre.
"This is an isolated incident and I want people to come to the city, see the great city we live in," he said. "It's a beautiful city and I'm very proud of (it.)"
Toronto police Acting Deputy Chief Jeff McGuire warned the public against becoming "alarmist."
"We will not minimize the seriousness (of the shooting) but we will not allow ourselves to become too alarmist and jump to conclusions about heightened dangers," he said. "The numbers are what they are. There have been some increases in shootings in some areas but over the past five years, the safety of this city has improved and the number of shootings and injuries has decreased."
McGuire said police are constantly analyzing the statistics and brainstorming ways to keep violence off city streets.
Ford said he believes in the police work and the statistics. He was then asked by a reporter if the city needs more youth outreach workers in areas that have gang activity.
"I don't believe we need more youth workers, we have enough and the proof is in the pudding," he said. "Crime is going down in the city and that's what people have to know. It's an isolated incident and we have to continue living our lives every day having fun."
Saturday's shooting incident has drawn worldwide attention and reignited the debate about public safety and gun violence in Toronto. In response to deadly rampage, city council members have attempted to ease people's fears or concerns, saying the city remains a safe place despite the violence.
In a statement to reporters, Eaton Centre general manager Susan Allen reassured customers Monday the mall is still safe to visit.
Allen said the mall, owned by Cadillac Fairview, is conducting a review of its security measures.
She said management is proud of the way security guards responded and handled the situation.
Meanwhile, Eaton Centre reopened its doors to the public Monday morning for the first time since gunshots rang out.
Mall security guards unlocked the entrances shortly before 6 a.m. to allow people access to the Queen and Dundas subway stations.
Stores within the mall opened at their usual times later in the morning, but the food court where the shooting occurred will remain closed until Tuesday.
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