Police probe shooting at party that left three dead, say no suspects outstanding

TORONTO — The shooters who opened fire at a party in a downtown Toronto Airbnb rental on Friday night were among the three men killed, police said Saturday as they continued to probe the incident.

Police converged on the highrise condo building in a densely packed neighbourhood on the city’s waterfront just before 10:30 p.m. to find five victims. Two of them would die before making it to hospital.

A Toronto Police Service spokesman said Saturday evening that two firearms were recovered at the scene of the shooting, which took place in a Airbnb unit and the adjacent hallway.

Const. Alex Li said officers aren’t looking for outstanding suspects in the incident. Li said a preliminary investigation suggests that the shooters are among the deceased, whom he identified as a 21-year-old and a 20-year-old from Brampton, Ont., and a 19-year-old from Toronto.

“Right now three people have lost their lives and we’re doing everything we can to make sure we get a fullsome story and account for why this happened,” Chief Mark Saunders said in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Det. Henri Marsman said two of the shooting victims died at the scene, while a third was pronounced dead in hospital. A fourth man was taken to hospital with gunshot wounds that were not life-threatening.

A fifth person described as a witness was treated for a minor injury and released, Marsman said.

He said investigators are working to figure out what led up to the shooting and why everyone was there.

“My understanding is they were all there for the party,” he said. “We’re still looking into that and I wouldn’t want to prematurely say that.”

He declined to say whether anyone involved was known to police.

Late last year, Airbnb announced a ban on so-called “party houses” after five people were killed at a Halloween party at a rental in Orinda, Calif., that was listed on their site. The ban prohibited “open-invite” parties in which organizers open up the home to anyone who wants to attend, for instance by advertising on social media.

The company also said it was banning “large parties and events” in Airbnb listings in multi-family residences such as apartments and condos.

It said it was using technology to figure out which bookings were likely for unauthorized parties, examining things like how big the properties were compared to how long they were booked for.

A spokeswoman for Airbnb declined to comment on the efficacy of those safety measures but said the company is aware of this incident.

“We are in close co-ordination with Toronto Police Services to offer our full support of their investigation into this senseless gun violence,” Lindsey Scully said in an emailed statement. “We have zero tolerance for this type of behaviour, and we ban both party houses and unauthorized parties on our platform.”

Airbnb said the guest who booked the unit had been banned from its platform. The listing where the incident reportedly took place has banned parties, the company said, and it’s also been suspended from the site while an investigation is ongoing.

Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement saying he’s as committed as ever to reducing the rate of gun violence in the city.

“The shooting overnight is, as with others, completely unacceptable,” he said.

This is not the first shooting at an Airbnb-based party in Toronto. A Humber College student filed a lawsuit against the company after he was shot in the pelvis while attending an “Airbnb mansion party” last April that was advertised online.

He said Airbnb should have known that minimally furnished rental properties were commonly used for parties and events where violence occurred. For its part, the company said it had removed the person who booked the house from its platform.

In Ottawa, police were investigating a shooting at an Airbnb in the city’s downtown area just last month. That incident left an 18-year-old dead and injured three others.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 1, 2020.

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