TORONTO (AP) — Canadian investigators are digging into the life of a 29-year-old man, seeking to explain what prompted him to fire a handgun into restaurants and cafes in a lively Toronto neighborhood, killing a girl and a young woman and wounding 13 others.
The Ministry of Public Safety on Tuesday knocked down suspicions that gunman Faisal Hussain had any link to terrorism.
“At this time, there is no national-security nexus to the investigation,” said Hilary Peirce, a spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
The family of Hussain, who died after an exchange of gunfire with police, said Monday that he had long suffered from psychosis and depression but they never imagined he would do such a thing. It was not immediately clear whether he took his own life or was killed by police during the rampage Sunday night.
The mass shooting in the Greektown district stunned people in a normally safe city that just three months ago saw a man use a van to plow over pedestrians on a sidewalk in another Toronto district, killing 10 people and injuring 14 in an attack apparently aimed at women.
A statement from Hussain’s relatives said he had lifelong “severe mental health challenges.” They said medications did not help him and the interventions of professionals were unsuccessful.
“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 said. “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.”
Investigators searched the low-income apartment that Hussain shared with his parents and siblings on Thorncliffe Park Drive in the eastern part of the city. They removed boxes of potential evidence overnight. An autopsy on Hussain was expected to take place on Tuesday.
Police Chief Mark Saunders said he would not speculate on a motive.
“We do not know why this has happened yet,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.”
One of those slain was identified as 18-year-old Reese Fallon, a recent high school graduate who volunteered for Canada’s Liberal Party and was to attend McMaster University in the fall. Her family said they were devastated.
“She was … smart, passionate and full of energy. It is a huge loss,” said Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, a member of Parliament who knew Fallon.
Flags at Toronto City Hall as well as at Fallon’s former high school, Malvern CI, were lowered to half-staff.
“An engaging student, Reese Fallon graduated from Malvern CI just last month and was highly regarded by staff and loved by her friends,” the school board said, adding that support was being offered to students.
Officials did not identify the 10-year-old who was killed or name any of the 13 wounded, who included six women and girls and seven men. The wounded ranged in age from 17 to 59.
Videos and witness accounts of the shootings portrayed a man dressed in black walking quickly down a sidewalk on Danforth Avenue, using a handgun to fire into shops and restaurants in the Greektown area of expensive homes, eateries and cafes.
At the corner of Danforth and Logan, where some of the shots were fired, about 50 people milled about on a small square Monday evening, talking in several languages. They expressed shock at a shooting in such a neighborhood.
Some hugged, some wept, and many said they wondered how the attacker obtained a gun in a country with far stricter gun laws than in the neighboring U.S. People signed a makeshift memorial made of plywood reading: “We are Danforth strong.”
“I’m out of my mind just thinking about it. It’s Toronto,” said Augustino Speciale, who paused to smell a bouquet of white lilies attached to a lamppost.
Ontario’s police watchdog agency said there was an exchange of shots between the attacker and two officers on a side street before the gunman was found dead.
Though mass shootings are rare in Canada’s largest city, Toronto police had deployed dozens of additional officers over the weekend to deal with a recent rise in gun violence. The city has seen 23 gun homicides so far this year, compared to 16 fatal shootings in the first half of 2017.
Toronto has long prided itself as being one of the safest big cities in the world.
“We were so used to living in a city where these things didn’t happen and as we saw them going on in the world around us (we) thought they couldn’t happen here,” Mayor John Tory said. “This is an attack against innocent families and our entire city.”