The owner of a popular steakhouse where a well-known realtor was fatally gunned down Saturday night says the victim spoke to the suspect seconds before multiple shots were fired at him.

The shooting happened at around 9 p.m. Saturday night at Michael’s steakhouse at Simcoe and Adelaide streets. Michael Dabic told reporters Monday that the entire incident was witnessed by staff of the restaurant, including his daughter, and was also captured on security camera footage.

Police have said a lone gunman walked into the crowded restaurant, approached 54-year-old Simon Giannini at a table and fired multiple shots at him.

Other patrons in the restaurant, including a former fire chief from British Columbia, rushed to help Giannini before paramedics arrived. But he was eventually rushed to a trauma centre without vital signs and pronounced dead.

Dabic told reporters Monday that his daughter, who works at the restaurant full-time, heard Giannini speak to the suspect before he was shot.

“She was there when the assailant approached Simon the victim, she heard Simon say something like ‘hahaha – you gotta be kidding’ or hahaha, very funny’ so he knew it was coming and he thought it was some joke,” Dabic said.

He said that staff did not hear the suspect say anything to Giannini.

He said the gunman, who was dressed in a hooded sweatshirt, was not dressed in the typical upscale attire they usually see from their patrons and therefore, immediately drew the attention of restaurant staff, who confronted him prior to the shooting.

“My manager actually approached the gentleman and said, ‘Excuse me, can I help you,’” Dabic said. “He didn’t fit the part, didn’t look the part – people are definitely dressed up when they come to my restaurant. The guy said ‘No, I’m just here looking for a friend.’

“Then my general manager kept an eye on him and said ‘Excuse me, can I help you’ one more time and at that point he just kind of beelined for that table.”

From speaking with his staff, Dabic said it appeared as if the gunman knew exactly where Giannini was. He said that seems strange to him, as it is typically difficult to locate someone in the packed restaurant quickly and Giannini was sitting with his back to the entrance, close to the exit when he was approached by the gunman.

The lone suspect, who was wearing a hooded jacket, is believed to have fled westbound on Pearl Street in a white SUV.

Dabic said a waiter chased after the suspect and got the licence plate of the vehicle.

So far police have not released security images or video to the public, but Dabic said the footage “shows everything you can imagine it showing.”

Witness locked eyes with fleeing suspect

A witness who was standing outside the restaurant at the time of the shooting told CP24 Monday that he locked eyes with the suspect as he fled the scene.

“I was standing here with a colleague of mine. We had just gotten out of a film around the corner and then we heard two loud bangs,” Mick Sullivan told CP24 outside the restaurant.

He said at first he thought the noise was maintenance work.

“Then I saw people climbing under tables. That’s when I automatically knew that it was gunshots and something was wrong,” Sullivan said. “Two more shots went off and then within a few seconds there was a fairly young black male that ran out of that door from the restaurant."

“We literally locked eyes. We were the first people he came across when he came out from the restaurant. He had a gun in one hand down around his midsection, he had another hand over his face, he had his hoody up. Then he ran down to Pearl Street, took a right and that was the last I seen of him.”

Sullivan described the weapon as “a black handgun,” but said he didn’t catch more detail.

“I’m surprised he didn’t shoot us, to be honest, because we locked eyes,” he said.

However, he said he’s not sure he’d be able to identify the suspect if he saw him.

Friends baffled

Police have said the shooting was targeted, but friends of Giannini have described him as an extremely well-liked realtor and family man whose murder confounds them. He also hosted a radio program about real estate and had written several books.

Police have said there is no reason to believe that the latest shooting is connected to another shooting that injured two people at the same restaurant in 2015.

“This can happen in any restaurant,” Dabic said. “We have prominent individuals in our restaurant. We had Bill Gates in our restaurant five weeks ago. People come to our restaurant and it is what it is. I didn’t think lightning could strike twice, but it did.”

He called the shooting “shocking” and said in the meantime, staff are trying to deal with the trauma of the incident.

“Yesterday was a very numb day for us all,” he said. “My daughter, we wanted to take her home with us to Burlington but she didn’t want to go so I didn’t fight her on it.”

He added that she and other staff “are definitely shaken up.”

But he said the restaurant has seen an “outpouring of support” and vowed to eventually reopen “stronger than ever.”