It was a chance encounter that showed the city’s different worlds aren’t so far apart.
Lying on the road was Christopher Husbands, who would later gain infamy as a gang member charged with murder. He had been stabbed multiple times, soaking his city of Toronto staff shirt with blood. His eyes would flicker shut and he kept asking for water.
Coming to his aid was a couple returning to their new home after looking at appliances.
Todd Irvine and his fiancée were on Gerrard Street, by Regent Park, when they found an injured man lying on the road one February evening. She called 911 while he tried to offer support.
“He knew it was bad,” Mr. Irvine, an urban arborist, remembered Wednesday. “It struck me how alone he was. It was just a man alone on a street bleeding to death.”
What they didn’t know at the time was that Mr. Husbands was probably the victim of violence from within his own gang. It was only months later, after reading Globe and Mail coverage of the weekend shooting at Toronto’s Eaton Centre, that the pieces came together. Police believe Mr. Husbands killed Ahmed Hassan Saturday in retaliation for the incident whose aftermath the couple stumbled across.
But that night it was a simpler picture.
“I was talking to him, sort of consoling him,” recalled Mr. Irvine. “At that moment he was a human, he wasn’t a villain.”
Mr. Irvine tweeted about the experience twice when he got home. The next day he followed up with another message, pleased to have learned that the man would live. At the time he was upset that the man’s near-death experience passed largely unnoticed by the city. Given what’s happened since, he admits to being a touch embarrassed now by the tone of those tweets. But he said that their lives crossed in a meaningful way, regardless of what occurred later.
The co-founder of the city issues magazine Spacing said the incident had given him a new appreciation of urban reality.
“It’s easy to hate these people but I have a better perspective now,” he said Wednesday. “It seemed like a small thing, but the city of Toronto shirt humanized him ... this is a guy who worked at the city of Toronto, helped kids, walked down the same streets I did.”