Man accused of threatening to shoot Toronto mayoral candidates arrested
Published Thursday, June 1, 2023 3:46PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 1, 2023 10:46PM EDT
A man who allegedly made violent threats against Toronto mayoral hopefuls on Thursday that led to the cancellation of a debate and some candidates pausing public events has been arrested.
Toronto police tweeted on Thursday evening the arrest of the 29-year-old Junior Francois Lavagesse who was wanted for threatening bodily harm, carrying a concealed weapon and weapons dangerous.
According to police, the suspect entered a location in the area of Mortimer and Memorial Park avenues on Thursday morning and allegedly made remarks that he would shoot mayoral candidates before brandishing what appeared to be a firearm.
"No candidates were present when the threats were made today. As far as I'm aware, the location is unrelated to any candidate appearances," Toronto police spokesperson Stephanie Sayer told CP24 earlier.
Sayer added that police subsequently emailed all 102 mayoral candidates to inform them about the police investigation.
"This was a blanket threat and there was no specific candidate named," the email read.
Sayer said Toronto police had not advised candidates to cancel their appearances. Despite that, a debate organized by The Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations and the Federation of South Toronto Residents Associations, set to be hosted at OCAD University's auditorium, was cancelled.
Several candidates who were supposed to participate said they would no longer be attending prior to the cancellation, citing security concerns.
In addition, Josh Matlow and Brad Bradford said they were pausing all of their public events until the suspect was apprehended.
Speaking to CP24, Matlow said he was first notified about the threat by the director of corporate security at City Hall. After the call, he said he informed his campaign team and decided to close his office.
"Our team isn't going to be working in situations that they could be under threat. They're not going to be in our office right now," Matlow said.
"We're also not going to be going to public events, both to protect our team, but just as importantly, we don't want the public to be threatened in any way because of what we are going through."
As for when he plans to resume his public appearances, Matlow said it will be a day-to-day decision based on the advice from police.
"I think it's just really sad that this interruption has come at a time when I think more and more people are becoming engaged in the mayoral election. And I hope that this is a very temporary moment and that we can all get back to discussing whether it be safety, whether it be affordability, whether it be all the services that we rely on," he said.
Bradford also said he will rely on the advice of Toronto police on how his campaign will proceed.
"It's unfortunate, but public safety has to be top of mind. And I know the Toronto Police are working very hard to keep the public safe in all the campaigns as well," he told CP24.
As for the cancellation of the debate, Bradford said there will be other opportunities to reach voters.
"There's still lots of campaign left. So I'm not worried about being able to get the message out there. We do that every day. There's different channels to do it."
Mitzie Hunter also cancelled her remaining campaign activities "out of an abundance of caution" and said she will reassess the situation on Friday.
Mark Saunders says the incident is upsetting.
"My first thought is the fact that I've got staff and I'm concerned about my staff and their well-being," he said in an interview with CP24 on Thursday evening.
As for how he plans to campaign, Saunders said his team will still go on but will "do certain things a little bit different" to ensure the safety of the staff and the public attending his events.
"Our plan is a simple plan. We're gonna go day by day and take some extra precautionary actions on the go forward, and so that we can cross the finish line and then see what happens," he said.
Olivia Chow said in a statement that she is aware of the threat.
"Moments like these can be unsettling for people involved in the election. Like you, we are still learning more and I want to assure you that my family, my campaign team and volunteers are safe," she said.
Ana Bailao told CP24 she was informed about the threat while attending the raising of the Pride Flag at City Hall.
"It was pretty shocking and terrifying and sad," she said.
"It's scary for our families. But we've spoken to all our volunteers. Everybody's calm. Everybody is focused on the campaign. We are being cautious. Everybody has the picture (of the suspect). But we've spoken with all our volunteers and making sure that everybody is aware of the situation and feels talked about as well."
In an additional statement, Bailao said threats against elected officials or those seeking election are "totally unacceptable."
"I want to be extremely clear that no threat or intimidation of any kind will ever stop me from taking part in the democratic process and working to represent Toronto residents as their Mayor."
Bailao said she will never be intimidated as a candidate and plans to continue her campaign activities.
Anthony Furey also intends to continue with his campaign schedule.
"We strongly condemn any and all forms of violence, as well as any threats to the democratic process," he said in a statement.
"Thankfully, no one has been hurt and we have complete faith that the Toronto Police will quickly and safely apprehend the person in question. We stand in solidarity with our fellow candidates for mayor of this great city."