Suspected gunman in Danforth rampage had 'severe' mental health problems: Family
Codi Wilson and Joshua Freeman, CP24.com
Published Monday, July 23, 2018 6:14AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 24, 2018 12:08AM EDT
The family of a 29-year-old man suspected in a mass shooting on The Danforth Sunday night that left two people dead and 13 others injured says their son suffered from severe mental health challenges.
The Special Investigations Unit said Monday afternoon that after speaking with a family member, it was able to identify the suspect as Faisal Hussain, a 29-year-old man from Toronto.
The organization said it was releasing his identity at this early point in the investigation due to the “exceptional circumstances of this tragic incident and the public interest in knowing the man’s identity.”
A letter released by the man’s family at the same time described his actions as “horrific” and painted a picture of a young man with a long history of mental health problems.
“We are utterly devastated by the incomprehensible news that our son was responsible for the senseless violence and loss of life that took place on the Danforth,” the family said in their statement.
“Our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life. The interventions of professionals were unsuccessful. Medications and therapy were unable to treat him. While we did our best to seek help for him throughout his life of struggle and pain, we could never imagine that this would be his devastating and destructive end.”
The family added that their hearts “are in pieces” for the victims of the shooting and for the city and said they will mourn those lost “for the rest of our lives.”
Neighbours say suspect was friendly, ‘always smiling’
Neighbours and friends said Hussain shared a seventh floor apartment on Thorncliffe Park Drive with his parents.
On Monday night, forensics officers could be seen going in and out of the building to try and find clues as to what may have precipitated the shooting rampage.
People at the complex told CP24 Monday that they’re struggling to reconcile the person they knew with the man who allegedly took aim at innocent people on a crowded street.
“He was very upbeat and happy every time I saw him. I didn’t identify any triggers. I couldn’t see anything wrong with him,” family friend Aamir Sukhera said.
Sukhera said he mentored Hussain through a community program and knew him as a polite and respectful young man.
“You couldn’t tell. He seemed fine. Every time he saw you he’d smile, greet you. Polite, respectful, humble, quiet, kept to himself, didn’t talk to a lot of people. I felt special because he was open with me. I guess he trusted me,” Sukhera said. “When I heard this is what happened, I can’t put two and two together. I can’t believe it’s him.”
Neighbour Ahsley Robinson said she didn’t know Hussain well, but he was always friendly when he passed by.
“I would see him daily. I’d walk my dog so I’d always see him walking on the street,” Robinson said. “He always was friendly. Even waiting for the elevator, inside the elevator he said ‘hello, how’s it going.’ He was always looking down a lot, but once he’d look up and see you he’d always smile.
“He was just an acquaintance. Seeing the video of him with the gun walking was just heartbreaking. It made me tear up a bit. I didn’t ‘know’ know him, but it’s still horrible to see that.”
Teen victim identified
More details also emerged Monday about the victims of the tragic shooting.
An 18-year-old named Reese Fallon and a 10-year-old child from the GTA have been identified as the two people killed in the shooting.
MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who has been in touch with Fallon's loved ones, said the family is “devastated” and are asking for privacy while they cope with their loss.
“I just spent time with a family who hasn’t processed this yet. I don’t want comment on this beyond what they’ve said,” he said. “At some point they’re going to be ready to talk more publicly but right now they’re still processing this.”
“They’re devastated,” he added, “as any parent would be.”
Fallon was a recent graduate of Malvern CI. In a statement, TDSB Director John Malloy said the TDSB is “heartbroken” over Fallon’s death and described her as an “engaging student” who was “highly regarded by staff and loved by her friends.”
She was set to begin her studies in the field of nursing at McMaster University this coming fall.
In a message posted to Twitter, Olympic swimmer and former schoolmate Penny Oleksiak called Fallon an “amazing” and “sweet” young woman.
“My heart is hurting after hearing about the Danforth shooting,” Oleksiak wrote. “My prayers go out to everyone affected, especially Reese’s family, I went to school with her and she was amazing and so sweet❤️ stay strong.”
Shooting unfolded ‘very quickly’
The two young victims were among 15 people injured when a gunman opened fire in the heart of Greektown last night at around 10 p.m.
The Special Investigations Unit said Monday that preliminary information suggests the gunman was walking along the street on Danforth Avenue, near Logan Avenue, when he began shooting at groups of people.
Witnesses reported hearing 10 to 20 shots and one witness said they saw the gunman aim at patrons sitting inside a busy restaurant along the street.
According to the SIU, the gunman was located by police on Bowden Street and an exchange of gunfire took place between the man and two officers.
The suspect, the SIU said, fled the area and was later found dead on Danforth Avenue after sustaining a gunshot wound.
The SIU would not confirm if the suspect was injured by police gunfire or if his injuries were self-inflicted.
Homicide Det.-Sgt. Terry Browne, who spoke to reporters at police headquarters on Monday, said forensic officers are currently processing multiple scenes within the larger crime scene.
“I can’t get into the full detail but it was a moving scene so it started in a certain location and then it moved down the road,” he noted.
“It was a very rapid and fluid incident that unfolded… very quickly.”
Police said the surviving victims range in age from 17 to 59 and their injuries range from minor to serious.
Browne said some of the surviving victims sustained “life-altering” injuries.
“Some have been treated and will be released in short order. Others will have to stay for a while,” Browne said.
Three injured patients were taken to Sunnybrook Hospital and in an update Monday, a spokesperson with Sunnybrook said one of the patients remains in critical but stable condition. The two others are currently under observation, the spokesperson said.
Five patients were taken to St. Michael’s Hospital and officials confirmed Monday that they are all in critical or serious condition.
Dr. Paul Hannam told reporters that seven people were treated at Michael Garron Hospital last night and two sustained gunshot wounds. He said five patients were treated and released and two people remain in hospital in stable condition.
Investigators have not yet determined a motive for the shooting but Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said they are pursuing all possibilities.
Browne said investigators are currently looking into the background of the suspect.
"I can’t speak to what was in this individual’s mind. We’ll certainly dissect everything. We are going into the background of this individual,” he said.
At around 6:30 p.m. Monday, police said forensics officers have wrapped up most of their work at the shooting scene and the roads have reopened in the area.
However investigators are continuing to urge witnesses or those with cellphone, security, or dash camera video to come forward to police.
A portal has been set up on the Toronto Police Service’s website for witnesses to upload photos and videos.
“If you heard or saw anything in relation to this incident around 10 p.m. last night, don’t assume that we already have that information because we are going to need that information to complete our investigation,” Browne said.
Danforth business owner recalls assisting two gunshot victims
Speaking to CP24 Monday morning, Tanya Wilson, the owner of Skin Deep Inked Tattoo Studio in Greektown, said she was closing up the shop for the night when she heard the gunfire.
“I went up to go see what was going on. By the time I had reached halfway up my stairs, there was a woman and a young man freaking out,” she said.
“I couldn’t really process it until I realized they were shot so I just ran to the top of the stairs, locked the door, and brought them downstairs, shut the lights off.”
She said she turned on a lamp so she could see, put on gloves, and inspected the two victims, who she said had sustained gunshot wounds to the leg.
“I ran to the back and found an article of clothing. I tied up above the wound and I just tried to keep them calm while I could try to reach police or ambulance, which was nearly impossible, I assume because everybody else was phoning at the same time,” she said.
“I waited until I couldn’t hear any more gunshots or that much commotion and I just went outside, chased down a police car, and directed them to where they were. It was pretty intense.”
She said she hasn’t quite processed exactly what took place.
“I haven’t gotten any sleep,” Wilson said. “I just keep replaying the whole situation in my head and thinking if I had left even two seconds earlier that could have been me.”
Residents of Greektown shaken by shooting
The incident has left many residents of the busy neighbourhood, which is filled with cafes, restaurants, and shops, markedly shaken.
Many came together at a candlelight vigil on the Danforth Monday night to lay down flowers and signs of tribute.
In a statement, organizers of the Taste of the Danforth, one of the city's biggest street festivals held along the Danforth every August, said the neighbourhood is “shocked” by the violence.
“This is a family friendly area that welcomes people to dine and enjoy the atmosphere where these type of things don't happen. Unfortunately this senseless act can happen anywhere and this time it happened on the Danforth. Our thoughts right now are with the family of those who were injured,” the statement read.
“The Festival always has a comprehensive security plan and a significant police presence, in addition to private security. We have great support and communication with the police and we will consult with them as to whether they think anything else needs to be done.”
Howard Lichtman, with the Greektown on the Danforth BIA, said the neighbourhood is a safe area and encouraged people not to let last night's violence dissuade them from visiting the Danforth.
"This is an area where people walk around 10, 11, 12 o’clock at night in the cafes and it just is really, really, really a tragedy," he said.
"The Danforth is safe. This is the kind of thing that could hit anywhere and it is a tragedy for the Danforth, it is a tragedy for the city. The biggest tragedy is not about the street or the city but about the people who passed away and the people who are injured."
The shooting occurred just a few days after police increased the number of officers on Toronto streets overnight in an effort to curb gun violence in the city.
Mayor John Tory, who was at the scene of the shooting shortly after the gunshots rang out, spoke about the incident at city council on Monday morning, calling the tragedy an “unspeakable act.”
“Our entire city has been shocked by this cowardly act of violence. As I said earlier this morning at the scene, I’m of course angry that someone would carry out such an attack, which really amounts to an attack on our city itself. Gun violence in any part of our city is horrible and completely unacceptable,” Tory said.
He thanked Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Bill Blair, former Toronto police chief and current federal minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, for immediately reaching out to him and offering support.
“In times of such horror, it is good to know that Toronto is not alone and Toronto will never be alone and most important of all, that the people of Toronto will never be alone. This city will always be resilient in the face of such attacks. It does not mean such a terrible act committed against our residents is any less painful,” Tory said.
“This is an attack on innocent families and against our entire city. This is a tragedy, another tragedy in our city this year. I promise all of the people of Toronto, but most importantly, those directly affected by this tragedy that we will all be relentless about getting answers about why this senseless attack happened.”
Ward 30 Coun. Paula Fletcher and Ward 29 Coun. Mary Fragedakis, who both represent Toronto-Danforth, also attended the scene overnight and spoke to fellow city councillors about the incident on Monday.
A tearful Fragedakis said she “cannot imagine” what the victims of the shooting are going through.
“As we mourn, cherishing and caring for those in our lives may help with the pain,” she said.
Fletcher called the incident a “terrifying night” on the Danforth that won’t soon be forgotten.
“I too want to extend my condolences to the families who lost loved ones last night and to those who are wounded and in the hospital, and to everybody that was traumatized sitting in restaurants as someone marauded along the Danforth shooting indiscriminately into restaurants and into the parkette,” she said.