Man fatally shot by police near Scarborough school after reportedly being seen with rifle; SIU says BB gun recovered
Published Thursday, May 26, 2022 1:53PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 26, 2022 11:17PM EDT
A 27-year-old man is dead after being shot by police near an elementary school in Scarborough's Port Union area on Thursday afternoon in an incident that prompted hundreds of children at nearby schools to go into lockdown.
Toronto paramedics told CP24 they were called to the corner of Lawrence Avenue East and Port Union Road at 1:24 p.m. for a shooting.
Approximately 30 minutes prior to that, police were called to Maberley Crescent and Oxhorn Road, just east of the shooting scene, for reports of a person carrying a rifle on the street.
"Police were confronted by an individual and because of circumstances that followed are now the subject of an SIU (Special Investigations Unit) investigation, I'm prohibited from discussing further what occurred," Toronto police Chief James Ramer said.
At 2:40 p.m., police said the SIU was called to the scene to investigate.
Video obtained from a witness at the scene shows officers cordoning off a section of East Avenue, several hundred metres from William G. Davis Public school.
A body covered with an orange tarp can be seen on the sidewalk.
Ramer confirmed that the individual had died following the incident.
"There is no threat to the public as this is believed to be an isolated incident," Ramer said.
When asked where the individual seen with a rifle was going and what he was going to do, Ramer said he will let investigators determine that.
"Let's not speculate as to what's occurred here today and what was happening. And so in the fullness of time, we will investigate every aspect of this, and we'll have a better understanding of what has occurred," Ramer said.
"But we have no understanding at this point in time, what was about to happen, or what could have happened. So I don't want to speculate and suggest that it's something similar to what's happened in the United States," he added, referring to a mass shooting earlier this week at an elementary school in Texas.
Ramer said Toronto police will step up patrols in the area in the wake of the incident.
"Due to the proximity to a school, I certainly understand the trauma and how traumatic this must have been for staff, students and parents, given the recent events that have happened in the United States," he said.
The president of the Toronto Police Association said two officers were taken to the hospital for a “checkup to make sure they’re okay, considering the critical incident they were just involved in.”
“It's very obviously impactful situation for anybody to be involved in,” said TPA president Jon Reid.
BB GUN RECOVERED AT THE SCENE
Kristy Denette, a spokesperson for the province's police watchdog, confirmed that the SIU's mandate had been invoked.
She said two Toronto police officers discharged their firearms at the man during an "interaction."
"The man was struck, and the man was pronounced deceased at the scene. At this time, the SIU has not yet identified the man," Denette said.
She added that she cannot confirm whether the man had a rifle but said a firearm with a "long barrel" was recovered at the scene. Later in the evening, Denette confirmed to CTV News Toronto that it was a BB gun that was retrieved.
"Whether the man was holding it or not, I'm not entirely certain at this point. But that will be something that the SIU investigators will be looking at," Denette said.
When asked if there was an exchange of gunshots between police and the man, Denette said the available information does not indicate that the man fired at officers.
"SIU investigators right now are going door to door, looking to speak to anyone who might have photos or videos. And that being said, it would be great if anyone does have any information to please reach out to the SIU to assist with this," she said.
The SIU said four investigators and three forensic investigators have been assigned to the case.
STUDENTS, PARENTS RECOUNT INCIDENT
A young girl at William G. Davis told CP24 she was in her science class when the class received a message from the principal that they were going into lockdown.
“This is not a drill, get under your desks,” she recalled being told.
“Some of us were fiddling around, some of us were kind of scared. After 10 minutes I knew that this was not a drill.”
She said they were not told anything for a while, and unease grew inside the class.
“I thought someone was trying to break into the school – I was just saying to myself – probably it’s the end of it,” she said.
She and her classmates were later let out of the school.
When she saw her mom outside the school she said she “felt relief.”
A man who happened to pick his sick son up from a nearby school prior to the incident says it appeared that the person who was shot also had a bicycle.
“The police shot him and then they were trying to do CPR and they put a blanket over him after that,” he told CP24.
Another witness told CP24 that they heard "three rapid shots" and then saw officers attempt to revive a male on the sidewalk.
That witness told CP24 officers told him they were searching for a male on a bicycle with a rifle in the area.
The Toronto District School Board said Charlottetown Junior Public School and Centennial Road Junior Public School were in hold and secure, while Joseph Howe Senior Public School and Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute were in lockdown mode due to the incident.
"We do lockdown drills specifically for this kind of situation, where we don't know what's happening, it's in the immediate vicinity of a school, and we want to make sure that everyone stays safe. So because of those lockdown drills, when it does happen for real, students and staff generally know what to do. In this case, obviously, that's a concerning situation," TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird said.
"It's concerning enough when it's anywhere in the city, but when it's closer to a school -- to my knowledge, there is no direct connection to the school at this point in time. But obviously, when you have a shooting nearby, that's really concerning. And that's why the training that our staff and students go underway is so important."
All school restrictions were lifted by 3 p.m.
Parents were asked to pick up their children from William Davis Junior Public School now after the lockdown ended.
Toronto Mayor John Tory released a statement, saying he had spoken with Ramer about the incident.
"He confirmed police will be stepping up patrols in the area and continuing to work with schools and community partners to keep people safe. The safety of everyone in our city is our priority," Tory said.
"I know the nearby school was placed in lockdown as a precaution. Given recent tragic events, I can't imagine the fear felt by kids, teachers, and parents until the lockdown was lifted. No one should have to feel that fear and I'm so thankful everyone in the school was able to safely go home tonight. Thank you to police for the work they do every day to keep our city safe."