Toronto is reeling from a deadly attack on a popular east-end neighbourhood, but residents say they won’t succumb to fear.
On Sunday, Toronto police say 29-year-old Faisal Hussain conducted a mass shooting in Toronto’s Danforth area, which is also known as Greektown.
Hussain, a Toronto resident, shot 16 people during the deadly rampage. Toronto police say 18-year-old Reese Fallon and a 10-year-old Julianna Kozis were among the victims.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” Polly Horvay, an employee at BOGO Beauty Supply at the Toronto intersection of Chester Ave. and Danforth Ave., told Yahoo Canada News on Tuesday. “When I was coming down here this morning, it was really saddening to see.”
Tasos Giaouridis, a Toronto resident of Greek decent who frequently takes his two children to the Greektown area, expressed shock over the incident.
“I’m devastated that something like this could possibly happen in this neighbourhood, that it could happen in the city all together,” Giaouridis said.
Hussain died of a gunshot wound during a exchange with police, but it’s not yet clear who fired the bullet that caused his death. In a statement, Hussain’s family said he had “severe mental health challenges” and had attempted both medications and therapy as possible treatments.
“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,” Hussain’s family said.
Stronger gun laws needed?
The Islamic State has publicly claimed responsibility for the shooting, but Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said there is “no evidence” linking Hussain to the group. Saunders added police are “looking into his experiences with mental health.”
“Whatever they do for mental illness definitely needs to be addressed,” Taras Renco, a local in the neighbourhood to visit the memorial sites on Tuesday, told Yahoo Canada News after the incident. “That needs to be looked at because either it’s not being done right or something’s gone wrong.”
This latest act of gun-related violence continues to raise questions about gun laws, penalties for gun-related charges and access to firearms in Canada. Some residents question whether the law is strong enough.
“I’m a teacher and I’ve dealt with expelled or suspended students due to violent weapons and I just think that even when police is involved … [the penalties are] not enough of a deterrent to keep some of these kids away from weapons,” Giaouridis said.
Following the attack, Torontonians say they are continuing to support the neighbourhood with messages of love and strength.
“I grew up at the Woodbine community along Danforth, four generations”, Lori Britton said. “It’s Danforth, we’re strong … but its touched too close to home.”
The violence hasn’t stopped some from bringing their families to some of the city’s most popular attractions, such as the affected Greektown area.
“I wanted to bring my kids here so they can actually see the affects of guns and violence.” Giaouridis said. “They can get a better understanding of why we’re against violence.”
Det. Sgt. Terry Browne described the shooting as a “quick, dynamic incident” and “very disturbing.” Toronto police officers have been canvasing the area, both north and south of Danforth Ave., as part of the investigation process.