Police are searching for three shooters and a driver after four people were hurt in a shooting outside a plaza in Toronto’s Glen Park area early Saturday, police say.
More than 30 bullets were fired, with at least one victim shooting back, said Police Chief Mark Saunders, who said the shooting had all the markings of targeted gang-related violence.
Police believe one of the victims, however, was just “in the wrong place at the wrong time” and connected to a nearby restaurant, Saunders told media Saturday.
Police were called to the intersection of Marlee and Glencairn avenues just before 1 a.m. A shooting occurred outside a bar in the same area in April.
A bullet went through the window of a nearby apartment during Saturday’s gunfire, in a parking lot, said Insp. Jim Gotell.
Police found two victims at the scene with non-life-threatening injuries who were brought to hospital, Gotell said
A third victim called police two hours later saying he was hiding in a portable toilet, Gotell said. The victim was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, and a fourth victim walked into hospital with a “minor” gunshot wound.
The suspects showed up and left in a dark-coloured sedan, with a driver waiting in the car, Saunders said. Three of the victims “have no intention” of helping with the investigation, said Saunders, who says one of the victims has twice served time for gun violence.
It’s a “large crime scene,” and the “brazenness is troubling,” Gotell said.
‘I was just very scared’
Meanwhile, Saturday morning’s shooting left one family rattled, and afraid for their lives.
Walli Mohammad says he and his family moved from Afghanistan to escape violence, but now he doesn’t feel safe.
That’s because one bullet went through the window of his apartment during the shootings, and hit his TV.
“I heard so much shooting,” he said. “When I saw the TV, oh my God, I was just very scared.”
Mohammad and his two kids were watching a movie while his wife was in the other room. He says he was passing his young daughter a pacifier when he heard a loud “boom.”
As soon as it happened, Mohammad said he grabbed his kids and told them and his wife to lie down on the ground in case of other bullets.
There was also “collateral damage” to nearby vehicles, with some windshields shot out, Gotell said.
“It happened without any care for the security and the safety of the people who are living in the area,” said Gotell, who called the incident “very concerning.”
Expect retaliation, Saunders says
Saunders decried street gang violence speaking to reporters Saturday, saying it continues to put community members at risk.
“My fear is they have no respect for the rest of the public … and they will shoot at will,” Saunders said. “They are more brazen … they compromise the safety of many, many others and have no issue.”
People can expect retaliation, he said — street gang shootings are largely related to money and retribution.
“It’s this cycle that continues over and over again,” said Saunders, who says there will be police reinforcement in those neighbourhoods.
Street gangs continue to invoke the “most gun violence in the city,” Saunders said, with police identifying more than 100 gangs.
He appealed for community members who recognize gang activity to alert police.
“They’re not trained at shooting,” Saunders said. “But they’d have no problem pulling out a gun and shooting it in the public space.”
‘Every punk’s got a gun’
Local councillor Mike Colle said there’s been extra police presence in the area since March because of reported gang violence, yet shootings continue.
The people involved don’t fear the consequences, said Colle, who said he’s “lost count” of recent shootings in the area.
He wants the government to get tougher on gun crime.
“Right now it’s too easy to get a gun,” he said. “The residents are at risk and the cops are at risk.” He said constituents tell him they can’t walk the streets at night because “every punk’s got a gun.”
Saunders said all parts of the gang problem need to be tackled.
There needs to be a strong deterrent for gun violence, he said, as well as funding to break the cycles that gets people into these situations.
Saunders also said the community voice needs to be better “heard in the courtrooms.”
“Our officers are getting tired of apprehending people that are out a short time later,” he said.
Saunders referenced Friday’s announcement that the province will help fund 40 new closed-circuit television cameras in Toronto in an effort to deter gun violence amid a spike in gang-related shootings.
Earlier this month, CBC Toronto learned that additional officers will also be added to the Toronto police guns and gangs unit to address the surge in gun violence, according to multiple police sources.
“It’s not just a police problem,” said Saunders on Saturday, saying police do many arrests and seized roughly 600 guns since the start of the year.
Police are appealing for witnesses and anyone with video surveillance connected to Saturday’s shooting to come forward.