TORONTO — The investigation into a deadly shooting rampage that set off a mass panic at Toronto’s Eaton Centre focused Sunday on one man police said they believe was behind the brazen attack.
Police said little about the gunman, but confirmed their initial impressions that Saturday’s shooting — which killed one and injured several others — was a targeted act.
“One idiot with a gun on a Saturday afternoon in downtown Toronto does not speak to the state of the city… please do not gauge the city on what we saw yesterday,” acting deputy chief Jeff McGuire told a news conference Sunday.
Police said at least one of the victims had known gang ties but they had yet to determine if the shooting was gang-related.
The man who was killed, identified as Ahmed Hassan, 24, of Toronto, is believed to have gang links, said Det. Sgt. Brian Borg.
“We are investigating this person as well as another individual. It may be that both of them have gang affiliations, or it may be just the one of them, but we do believe that our deceased in this case may have had some gang affiliation,” Borg said.
Police did not elaborate on the suspect they are looking for, saying they did not want to influence first-hand accounts still pouring in a day after the attack.
Police were reviewing security video in their hunt for the shooter and interviewing witnesses who were among the hundreds of people in the shopping mall when the gunfire erupted Saturday evening, causing panicked shoppers to charge toward the exit in a wild pandemonium.
Seven people suffered either gunshot wounds or injuries in the stampede. The most seriously wounded is a man, 23, who suffered multiple gunshot injuries to his neck and chest. He remained in hospital in critical condition.
A 13-year-old boy who was visiting Toronto with his family suffered a gunshot wound to his head and remained in critical condition Sunday, though police said his injuries were no longer considered life-threatening.
The boy was speaking and responding well to treatment, they said.
Three other people suffered less serious gunshot wounds and were released from hospital.
A 28-year-old pregnant woman who was trampled as people rushed the exits was recovering in hospital, Borg said.
“That woman and her unborn child, I’m glad to say are doing well,” he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined the chorus of officials expressing their shock over the shooting, which he called a “depraved and monstrous” act.
“I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victim, and wish a speedy recovery to those injured by this senseless act of violence,” Harper said in a statement.
A makeshift memorial was set up outside the mall Sunday afternoon and several people stopped to leave messages of grief and sympathy.
Officers stood guard at the Eaton Centre’s entrances throughout the day and police cruisers parked on the sidewalks blocked access to the doors.
Signs warned passersby that the mall would remain closed until further notice, but that did not seem to deter the usual Sunday afternoon crowds.
Many of those who ambled past seemed unaware of — or undisturbed by — the grisly events that unfolded inside. Some tried to walk in but were rebuffed by officers guarding the doors.
Among them were some who hoped to fetch items — purses, cellphones, keys, shoes — strewn aside Saturday in their scramble to safety. Police said they would make arrangements Monday to return the discarded objects.
Tourists, meanwhile, seemed fascinated by the scene, pausing to snap pictures even posing with the officers outside.
But people who work inside the shopping mall said the case has them on edge.
“It’s a little bit nerve-racking,” said Rachel Kennedy, who was two hours into her shift at The Gap on Saturday when someone ran into the store and reported hearing gunshots.
“I think I would feel a lot more unnerved if I had actually heard the gunshots go off, but I think people are on edge just because it’s such a choice attraction … and nobody really knows what the motivation was or what happened or anything like that as of yet,” she said.
Recovering from the ordeal will likely be more difficult for food court employees, she said, adding: “I wouldn’t want to go back to work down there.”