New records reveal Danforth shooter was reclusive, battled mental illness — (The Globe & Mail)

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The Globe & Mail

After Faisal Hussain opened fire on Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue on July 22, and after he ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, his cellphone rang in his pocket on the ground.

It said “home” on the illuminated screen. When a police officer answered the call, the 29-year-old’s parents were on the line. The officer asked them to come down to the police station.

Those details were revealed in court documents filed by police in relation to the Danforth shooting. The documents were made public for the first time on Thursday, shedding light on Mr. Hussain’s life as well as his activity in the hours leading up to the mass shooting that killed 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and injured 13 others.

Earlier in the afternoon on July 22, Mr. Hussain’s twin brother – whose name, along with those of other relatives, is redacted in the court documents – had come by the apartment to visit his parents. He had gotten married a year earlier and moved out, but said he comes home regularly to help his parents out around the house.

On this visit, he had a conversation with Mr. Hussain (at his mother’s behest, he told police) about getting his life together and finding a wife. Usually, Mr. Hussain listened to him, he said, but this time, the 29-year-old repeatedly referred to himself as “mentally retarded” and went to the balcony to smoke a cigarette.

When his brother left that evening, Mr. Hussain was still at home.

But a short time later – sometime around 8:30 or 9 p.m. – Mr. Hussain’s parents said he, too, left the apartment. He was wearing a shoulder bag. Nothing about it seemed unusual. His mother told police that he regularly went on walks in the evenings, although she didn’t know where.

The shooting began around 10 p.m. The documents outline the chaotic scene on Danforth Avenue, with witnesses struggling to get through to 911 as the system was flooded with calls. One witness described the shooter standing over a woman who had fallen to the ground, firing at her repeatedly with a handgun.

When Mr. Hussain’s brother heard about the shooting, he sent him a text message, advising him to stay home. But when he saw footage of the attack on the news, he recognized his brother as the shooter.

The court documents – which were initially sealed but ultimately released with redactions by Justice David Corbett after a challenge by news organizations, including The Globe and Mail – paint a portrait of a reclusive young man who had no friends and virtually no social life. He worked part-time, at Shopper’s Drug Mart and Loblaws.

His father said he would take him along to the mosque on Fridays, but said Mr. Hussain “[did] not go willingly” and showed little interest in religion. A few years ago, the two of them had gone on a trip to Pakistan. His father recalled that Mr. Hussain did not want to come back to Canada, because people “left him alone” there.

The day after the shooting, Mr. Hussain’s family released a statement noting that he had struggled with “severe mental-health challenges,” including a lifelong struggle with depression and psychosis.

His twin brother told police that Mr. Hussain had “robbed a store with a gun, called the police to say he wanted to kill himself, and had been on anti-depressants.” Mr. Hussain had shown interest in guns when he was “younger,” the brother said, adding that he didn’t know how he would have obtained one.

According to the documents, Toronto police had received three calls about Mr. Hussain in 2010, relating to mental-health issues.

Just two days before the shooting, he had been arrested for shoplifting. He was released unconditionally.

“Faisal Hussain’s only companions appeared to be his parents, and they do not even know him that well and what he has been up to,” police noted in their application for a search warrant. “The only way of understanding the true extent of what occurred or was planned is to go to the only place [he] spent time, which is on these devices.”

His cellphone and computers, they argued, would shed light on the motive behind “this heinous crime,” and could help them determine where he got the gun.

A series of cellphones, laptops and tablets were found in the home. The documents note that an “explosives dog” alerted officers to something in a drawer under Mr. Hussain’s bed. It is unclear what, because part of the document is redacted.

An “Islamic head dress” and “a white powdery substance” (believed to be a narcotic) were also found in the drawer.

In addition to electronics, police were hoping to seize any guns or ammunition, any of Mr. Hussain’s identification, “any documents related to planning or preparation of the offences including diaries, address books, maps, and diagrams,” as well as any “substances, products, or building materials that could be used to build an explosive device” and “any literature or documents depicting hate, extremism, terrorism or similar belief or following.”

One police officer noted that “given the amount of ammunition on hand, it is reasonable to believe that this occurrence was planned and that items of planning, both physical and digital on electronic devices, will be located within his residence.”

Police also found cocaine on Mr. Hussain’s body when he died. It’s unknown whether he had taken the drug or was just carrying it.

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10-year-old girl, 18-year-old woman killed in Toronto mass shooting — (The Globe & Mail)

What we know so far:

Two victims are dead. Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said Monday that the victims are an 18-year-old woman from Toronto, later identified as Reese Fallon, and a 10-year-old girl from the Greater Toronto Area.

13 people are injured.

The shooter is dead. Police have identified the suspect as Faisal Hussain, 29. It is unclear if he died by suicide or was shot by police. SIU announced Monday morning he was 29 years old from Toronto. His autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Police confirmed the shooter used a handgun, but refused to speculate on motive.

A child and young woman are dead and 13 others injured after a lone gunman walked along Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue on Sunday night, randomly shooting pedestrians before opening fire on crowded restaurants.

The 29-year-old shooter from Toronto was found dead after an exchange of gunfire with police, though it remains unclear if he died by suicide.

Police have identified the suspect as Faisal Hussain. The province’s Special Investigations Unit, which probes cases where civilians may have been injured or killed by police, is investigating the suspect’s death and has assigned six investigators and three forensic investigators to the case.

In a statement, Canada’s Ministry of Public Safety said that the investigation into Mr. Hussain is not a matter of “national security.”

“At this time, there is no national security nexus to the investigation,” Hilary Peirce, a spokeswoman for the ministry, said.

One of the victims of Sunday evening’s mass shooting on the Danforth was identified as 18-year-old Reese Fallon.

Facebook/Reese Fallon

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders announced Monday afternoon that the two victims were an 18-year-old woman, later identified as Reese Fallon, and a 10-year-old girl.

Ms. Fallon was attending a birthday celebration with friends at a restaurant on the Danforth, according to sources who know her family. A friend in the group was injured in the shooting and was taken to a hospital.

According to her Facebook profile, Ms. Fallon was studying at McMaster University.

“We are heartbroken to learn that a recent graduate of the TDSB was among those who tragically passed away as a result of last night’s violence on the Danforth,” said John Malloy, the Director of Education for the Toronto District School Board in a statement. “An engaging student, Reese Fallon graduated from Malvern CI just last month and was highly regarded by staff and loved by her friends. Malvern CI will be open on Tuesday and supports will be made available to students who need them.”

Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, who has been in touch with Ms. Fallon’s family, said “they are absolutely devastated, and that they otherwise ask for privacy at this time.”

Police have not officially confirmed the names of the deceased.

Mr. Erskine-Smith said he spent time with the family on Monday and he knew their daughter.

“She was a wonderful young woman. She was full of energy, passionate and smart and bent on making a difference in the world,” Mr. Erskine-Smith said.

After police identified the suspect late Monday afternoon, Mr. Hussain’s family released a statement, explaining that their son had suffered from “severe mental challenges.” In the statement they offered condolences to those injured and killed on Sunday because of Mr. Hussain’s “horrific actions.”

Our son had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life. The interventions of professionals were unsuccessful,” Mr. Hussain’s family said in the statement. “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.”

“Our hearts are in pieces for the victims and for our city as we all come to grips with this terrible tragedy. We will mourn those who were lost for the rest of our lives.”

Earlier Monday at the press briefing, Chief Saunders said he would not speculate on any motive for the shooting and appealed for witnesses to come forward with information. He said it was premature to say what could have driven the suspect to launch the attack.

“It’s way too early to rule out anything,” Chief Saunders said. “That would not be serving justice well.”

The Special Investigations Unit says they are currently running a parallel investigation with Toronto Police into Sunday night’s shooting on Danforth Avenue, Toronto, with the SIU focused on the ‘interaction’ between police and the suspect that involved an exchange of gunfire.

He said that a total 16 people were shot — a tally that includes the dead suspect — eight were male and eight were female. The victims ranged in age from 10 to 59, the chief said. Police say their families have been notified.

Detective-Sergeant Terry Browne, the lead investigator on the case from the force’s homicide squad, said police were hard at work looking into Mr. Hussain’s background, and had sought a search warrant for an address related to the suspect. Police would not say where.

He said some of the injuries sustained by the victims would be “life-changing,” but would not provide other details.

SIU has invoked its mandate in the case because police interacted with the shooter before he was found dead from an apparent gunshot wound. The watchdog agency released few details in an afternoon update, saying an autopsy of the shooter was scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Mr. Hussein died after fleeing on foot following an exchange of gunfire with two police officers on Bowden Street, south of Danforth, Special Investigations Unit spokeswoman Monica Hudon said.

“There was an exchange of gunfire between the man and police,” Ms. Hudon said. “The man fled the scene on foot and was located a very short time later on Danforth Ave. deceased. He had sustained a gunshot wound.”

The suspect was found within 100 metres of the gunfight. It is not clear whether he was fatally shot by the police or whether he killed himself.

SIU investigators retrieved a handgun from the suspect, Ms. Hudon said, and is asking for witnesses to come forward. While she could not say whether the two officers who fired at the suspect were on foot or in a vehicle, Ms. Hudon said SIU investigators have towed away their cruiser.

The mass shooting flooded area hospitals with victims suffering from a range of injuries. Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre received three of the wounded. One patient is in critical but stable condition, hospital spokesperson Laura Bristow said. The other two patients are said to be in good condition. Najma Ahmed, acting head of trauma at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the hospital received five of the victims Sunday night. She said that three of those patients underwent “immediate life-saving surgery” and all are in serious but stable condition. Dr. Ahmed declined to release any identifying characteristics of the victims. Other hospitals, including Sick Kids, also treated victims.

Speaking to city council Monday morning, Toronto Mayor John Tory called the attack “unspeakable,” “cowardly” and an “attack on our city itself,” noting that it follows April’s van attack on Yonge Street.

Witness describes the scene of Toronto shooting: Andreas Mantzios was on Danforth Avenue Sunday night when a gunman began firing at pedestrians and into cafes

Saying gun violence in any part of the city was “horrible and completely unacceptable,” Mr. Tory called for a meeting with the provincial and federal governments on public safety measures, including reforms to gun laws. A meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday.

“I’ve said for some time that the city has a gun problem, and that guns are far too readily available to far too many people,” Mr. Tory said. “There are far too many people carrying around guns in our region and our city who should not have them.”

Danforth, a popular east-end destination for its many restaurants, bars and shops, was bustling Sunday night after the day’s rain gave way to a balmy night.

“Every restaurant was packed, patios were full,” John Aruldason said. He was out for a walk with his brother along the commercial strip when they heard shots and then a pause – shots and then a pause. He ran.

“No one thinks this would happen in Toronto,” he said. “People were slow to react. It wasn’t believable.”

The shooting spree lasted just minutes but spanned blocks, sparking terror across the busy Greektown neighbourhood around 10 p.m. Sunday as diners and patrons ran for cover, some initially mistaking the gunshots as fire crackers.

Andreas Mantzios was having a coffee with friends by the fountain at Danforth and Logan Avenues – a popular gathering spot for residents – when he heard gunshots ring out.

He turned and saw a man, dressed in all black, walking toward them with a handgun. “He had this horrible expression on his face.”

The man, he said, was pointing his gun and firing at a crowd of people standing on the corner of the intersection, waiting to cross the street. Somebody yelled to get down.

“And then a lady tried to run and she fell down,” Mr. Mantzios recalled. “He turned around and shot her point blank, two or three times.”

As he and others in the square scrambled to the ground, Mr. Mantzios watched as the man criss-crossed along Danforth, shooting into businesses. He said a friend of his saw the man change the clip of his weapon.

People were “falling all over the place – maybe seven, eight, nine of them,” he said. But hours later, he was still horrified by the image of the woman by the square being “executed.”

“Believe me, I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said. “I am still in shock.”

The gunman continued down the street. Moments later and roughly two blocks west of the square, Jim Melis watched him fire shots through the window of Caffe Demetre, a popular dessert shop at Danforth and Chester Avenues. The glass window shattered and panic set in on the block.

A video posted on social media Sunday shows a man walking up to a restaurant. He points a handgun toward the inside and begins to fire.

Jessica Young was visiting a friend at work at the Second Cup on Danforth, just west of Hampton Avenue, when the shots rang out.

“I heard a loud pop sound,” she recalled Sunday night. “Three of the customers that were sitting outside just started scrambling and saying ‘get down.’”

Ms. Young said everyone in the café dropped to the floor. She said she saw the shooter point the gun and fire two shots in her direction. No one inside the coffee shop was hit.

At the Auld Spot, a neighbouring pub, diner Dale Moser thought the sounds he could hear were fireworks. It was only when a woman on the restaurant patio screamed for everyone to get inside that he realized the sounds were actually gunshots.

About 10 shots were fired six metres away from where they were sitting, he said. It was “pandemonium.”

Everyone – diners, cooks, servers – scrambled to get to the back of the restaurant. And then, Mr. Moser said, there was total silence.

“It was just surreal,” he said. “It was so loud, it was like bang bang bang, right there.”

It was over in about 15 seconds, but they were held by police for about five hours for questioning, until 3 a.m. Monday.

Robin Hughes and Anthony Wills were also at the Auld Spot. The two cooks recalled watching two people on the street, both shot in the leg, make it into a neighbouring tattoo shop. They later saw those people being carried out on gurneys, awake and talkative.

At a press conference near the scene Sunday night, Chief Saunders made a plea to witnesses, or anyone along Danforth Avenue who might have security camera or dash-cam footage from around the time of the shooting.

Nearby at Danforth and Logan, police officers moved bystanders back from the area, saying they had to detonate a package. It’s not clear what was detonated around 1 a.m.. Police have not released any information about what officers found.

Det.-Sgt. Browne also said there were several crime scenes spread along the Danforth where forensic investigators were at work, as uniformed officers knock on doors in the neighbourhood appealing for witnesses.

He said detectives were still determining whether or not anyone else besides the dead suspect was involved.

“I can’t speak to what was in this individual’s mind. We’ll certainly dissect everything, going into the background of this individual,” Det.-Sgt. Browne said.

The province’s Special Investigations Unit – which probes any incident involving police that results in death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault – arrived after midnight and began its investigation. In a release Monday morning, SIU said “officers located the man on Bowden Street and an exchange of gunfire took place. The man fled the area and was located, deceased, on Danforth Avenue.”

As Danforth Avenue reopened on Monday evening, there were still people cleaning up the scene. Many of the stores remained closed and some were behind police tape. There was still a heavy police presence on the street. Some people walking on the sidewalks carried flowers.

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A man is taken to hospital after the shooting on Danforth Avenue in Toronto.

Victor Biro/The Globe and Mail

The attack provoked an immediate political reaction, with representatives at all levels expressing their condolences for the victims and concern for the city.

In a statement, Premier Ford said thanked first responders and pledged the province’s support. “What happened on Sunday night was despicable. But I hope it is also a catalyst for all of us to come together – to protect our communities against this kind of outrageous violence.”

In his address to council, Mayor Tory asked why any gun owner would need to buy 10 or 20 guns, which is lawful under the current rules: “That leads to another question that we need to discuss: Why does anyone in this city need to have a gun at all?”

A council debate on a package of measures meant to address the recent rise in mostly gang-related gun violence was put off until tomorrow. The federal Liberal government currently has a package of gun reforms, Bill C-71, set to go before the Senate.

Mr. Tory said both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Bill Blair, the former Toronto police chief who is now the federal Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, had been in touch and offered assistance.

City councillor Mary Fragedakis, who lives a short walk from the where the shootings took place, made a brief and emotional address to the council chamber, her voice shaking: “This is so heartbreaking. The victims and their loved ones are in my thoughts and prayers. I cannot imagine what they are going through.”

Local city councillor Paula Fletcher said she was told the Danforth shooting was not gang related, but presumed to be the work of a lone, “highly disturbed individual.” She said a renewed push from city council and the mayor for Ottawa to toughen gun control was long overdue.

“When mayor [David] Miller was mayor, that was a huge campaign to eliminate guns and handguns in the city of Toronto,” Ms. Fletcher told reporters. “It’s time to pick that back up again, and I feel very strongly and I am sorry that it got dropped for the last eight years.”

Just this weekend, Toronto police deployed dozens of additional officers to deal with a disturbing spike in gun violence in the city. This shooting is not believed to involve gangs, which police have suggested are behind much of the recent gun crime. Heading into the weekend, there had been 220 shootings in Toronto, putting it on pace for a record year of violence.

In addition to a spike in shootings, Toronto Police have also been tasked with investigating several high-profile homicides in the last 18 months, including the van attack in April, the double murders of billionaires Barry and Honey Sherman in December and the case of Bruce McArthur, an alleged serial killer accused of the deaths of eight men.