Disturbing end to Raptors celebrations after shots fired at downtown rally
Codi Wilson and Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, June 17, 2019 5:08AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 17, 2019 11:21PM EDT
It was a chaotic end to Raptors festivities in Nathan Phillips Square on Monday as the city celebrated the NBA champion Raptors.
Fans attending a rally in Nathan Phillips Square in honour of the team’s championship win scrambled to safety after gunshots rang out, wounding four people.
The shots were fired just as the players were being introduced to the stage alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford, Mayor John Tory, and Drake.
In a written statement released on Monday night, the mayor wished the injured victims a "quick recovery."
"I want to thank the Toronto Police and others who assisted them for the quick response to today's most unfortunate shooting after an otherwise spectacularly successful day," Tory wrote.
"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. I hope those found responsible will be held to account to the full extent that the law permits."
The incident marked a troubling end to what was previously a peaceful celebration in the city.
Starting early Monday morning, the streets of Toronto swelled with Raptors fans eagerly awaiting the team’s victory parade, which began at 10 a.m.
Hundreds of thousands of fans lined the parade route, which began at Exhibition Place and ended at Nathan Phillips Square, where the rally was held.
The parade was expected to wrap up at 12:30 p.m. but overcrowding made it difficult for the vehicles to pass through the area.
By noon, Nathan Phillips Square was at capacity and no one else was allowed in, however screens were set up at Yonge-Dundas Square showing the parade and rally for fans to watch.
The event was also screened at Coronation Park on Lake Shore Boulevard.
Along the crowded parade route, fans could be seen on top of trucks, buses, and police cars trying to get a better view.
Five open-air, double decker buses carried Raptors players, their families and friends along the parade route. Raptors global ambassador Drake had his own float while Raptors President Masai Ujiri and head coach Nick Nurse travelled in separate convertibles with their families.
Raptors superfan Nav Bhatia was the honourary parade marshal.
The team finally made it to Nathan Phillips Square at around 3 p.m.
Speaking at the rally, Mayor John Tory announced that a stretch of Bremner Boulevard from York Street to Lake Shore Boulevard West would be ceremonially dedicated as “Raptors Way” to honour the team.
Tory also presented the key to the city to MVP Kawhi Leonard, who accepted the honour on behalf of the team.
Speaking to the crowd, Leonard thanked the city for welcoming him so enthusiastically after a contentious trade last year that brought him to the city while trading away fan favourite DeMar DeRozan.
“I want to say thank you all for welcoming me here after the trade with open arms, man. It made my experience that much better,” Leonard said. “This group of guys let me do what I do on the floor. Coach Nick let me do what I do and now we’ve got a championship. Thanks you and like they said, enjoy this moment and have fun with it.”
Coach Nick Nurse thanked the fans and said the team’s success was a credit to their support.
“I’ve never seen anything like that parade today and I’m sure I never will again. That was really something,” Nurse said.
He added “I think it was Bono who said the world needs more Canada.’ The world just got it!”
The enthusiastic crowd shouted cheers and waved flags and signs.
Less than an hour after the team arrived, the gunfire was heard.
Police have confirmed that two people suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries and four people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The shooting sent fans scurrying to nearby streets and those trying to leave the downtown core faced some difficulties due to the large crowds.
Taxi services reported long wait times downtown due to high demand and the TTC said service in the core was “significantly slower than normal.”
Osgoode, Queen, and Dundas stations were closed for several hours due to overcrowding.
Raptors' play-by-play announcer Matt Devlin came out and urged the crowd to remain calm when the shots were fired. The rally continued as planned after Devlin addressed the square and the crowd eventually dispersed without further incident at the end of the rally.