The shooting of a TTC fare collector Sunday evening follows two other armed robberies at the same subway station by a man that matches the suspect’s description – one in June, a second in October – but TTC and union leaders say no extra measures were taken at Dupont after the previous robberies.
There are other stations in the system that considered just as perilous, union leaders say.
Andy Byford, the interim leader of the TTC since last week, called the shooting “outrageous.” However, he said, “There is no obvious reason why Dupont itself should be any more dangerous than any other location,” noting the layout is good for surveillance cameras.
But at least one person was worried about security at the stop. Transit union president Bob Kinnear said the wife of the victim feared for her husband’s safety following the first two armed attacks.
The victim, identified by sources as William Anderson, or Tom to his friends, a father in his early 50s, is recovering from emergency surgery at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital after being shot twice – once in the neck and once in the shoulder – and is expected to recover.
“His wife has raised concerns prior to this incident about the well-being of her husband,” Mr. Kinnear said Monday. “Every night that he went to work she was very concerned for his safety. It is scary out there for our people. It is unfortunate.”
Mr. Kinnear said the station is not the only safety concern for his members. Other stations are more deserted and darker, he said, and pose a risk to transit workers.
“Yes, Dupont and a couple of other stations are at the forefront, but there is a consensus amongst the members that they are concerned about each and every station,” he said.
The TTC’s surveillance cameras at Dupont captured the chilling details of the attack on the fare collector.
The masked suspect appears to be leaving when he turns and fires three shots at Mr. Anderson, caught in the booth with no escape, police say.
“It was a cowardly act. There is no doubt about it,” Staff Inspector Michael Earl said. “There was no reason for him to shoot his firearm. He was walking away.”
The TTC has heightened security at the Dupont station following Sunday’s shooting, Mr. Byford said. The TTC has taken steps to improve safety, he said, including limiting cash, and installing emergency alarms and cameras, and it is examining other ways to increase security across the system.
The number of incidents has decreased, he said, but it has plateaued. There have been about eight robberies of TTC employees in the past three years, said TTC spokesman Brad Ross. Two of those were within an hour of each other last month – one at Leslie, the other at Glencairn.
Police are looking for a white, heavy set man between the age of 35 and 50 and between 5 feet, 5 inches and 5 feet, 9 inches in height, who they believed was involved in all three incidents at the Dupont station. The first robbery took place on June 11 at 9:26 pm. The second was on Oct. 2, at 7:55 p.m., close to the same time as Sunday’s shooting, which occurred at about 7:20 p.m.
In the first two cases, the man showed a gun and left with an undisclosed amount of cash. On Sunday, he did not receive cash, police said. Insp. Earl said he could not say if any cash was demanded.
On all three occasions the suspect wore dark clothing. On the first occasion he wore a surgical mask to cover his face. In October and Sunday police say he wore a balaclava. In all three incidents, he fled on foot north along Spadina Avenue.
Police also are looking for witnesses to Sunday’s shooting, including a man who they say chased the perpetrator along the street.
“I find it strange that he keeps going back to the same booth, the same subway station. There has to be some reason. Maybe he lives in the area,” Insp. Earl said. “There is something going on with this individual and why he is targeting this station.”
TTC staff face on average two assaults a day, but violent attacks are rare. A collector was killed in 1995 and more recently a driver was shot and lost sight in one eye, a transit spokesman said.
Toronto police say they issued a Crime Stopper alert on the armed gunman following the second robbery at Dupont, releasing pictures from the surveillance video and asking for the public’s help.
Mayor Rob Ford called Sunday night’s shooting “terrible,” and suggested he’s open to replacing collectors with an automated fare system to help keep workers safe.
Mr. Kinnear said automated payment systems are not the answer. If stations are not safe for staff, he said, how can they be safe for the public?
With a report from Kelly Grant