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Police tape is seen in front of the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall in Toronto on June 2, 2012 after a shooting in the food court. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)
Police tape is seen in front of the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall in Toronto on June 2, 2012 after a shooting in the food court. (MARK BLINCH/REUTERS)

Victims recovering after shootings at Toronto's Eaton Centre Add to ...

 

Toronto's police chief has promised a "relentless" pursuit of the suspect in a fatal shooting at Toronto's Eaton Centre on Saturday evening.

Chief Bill Blair said police have a description of the suspect, but are not releasing the information until it is confirmed through witness interviews and video evidence.

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"A lot of innocent people were hurt and a lot of innocent people were put at risk," he told media outside the mall. "We will be relentless in our pursuit of the individual or individuals responsible for this violence."

The shooting happened around 6:30 p.m. in the mall food-court, and left a 25-year-old man dead and several others injured.

Among those hurt was a 13-year-old boy who was sent to hospital in critical condition. His condition is improving, police said Sunday morning.

At least two family members were at Toronto's Hospital of Sick Children with the boy early Sunday afternoon, including one young woman who said she was his sister and was caught in the gunfire with him.

"We really don't have anything to say right now," said a middle-aged man, believe to be the boy's uncle, who asked for the family's privacy.

A 20-year-old man and a woman also suffered life-threatening gunshot wounds, and another women was grazed by a bullet. A pregnant woman was knocked down as shoppers clamoured to flee the building, and went into labour. She had not yet given birth Sunday morning.

At least one of the injured has been released from hospital, police said.

Outside St. Michael's Hospital, Moniruz Zaman said his 23-year-old niece, a recent graduate of George Brown's business program, was shot in the leg yesterday and is expected to be released from hospital to her parents' home on Sunday.

He said his niece, Tasnia Mahmood, had been shopping when she and her friend decided to stop at the food court for dinner. Before they could have something to eat, he said, chaos broke out when shots were fired. She was hiding under a table before she realized her right leg was bleeding.

"She's doing quite well now but still has pain," he said.

Mr. Zaman said his niece called 911 but the ambulance was "quite late" and mall security tried to bring her upstairs.

Ms. Mahmood and her friend are shaken by the shooting but are physically OK, he said. Mr. Zaman said his niece has a large cast on her leg, and beneath that, the bone is shattered.

"We never expect these kinds of things in Canada, especially in the Eaton Centre. I will not let my kids go to the mall any more, shopping or for food," he said. "There's no guarantee they'll come back."

There were reports on Sunday that another shooting occurred in downtown Toronto just hours before a gunman opened fire at the Eaton Centre shopping mall.

Mike Spicer said he was driving south on Spadina Avenue with his son and his son’s friend around 2 p.m. when their car became stuck in standstill traffic south of College Street.

“We heard three shots fired, and we just said, ‘Oh, it sounds like a gun,’” he said. “And all three of us looked that were in the car and there was a guy running down the street toward us with a gun.”

He said the man was holding the handgun in his right hand as he ran. He described him as black and said he was wearing a grey hoodie and loose-fitting black jeans.

“I managed to kind of squeeze up [against the car in front] to get out of the line of that street,” he said, so he wouldn’t be directly in the man’s path.

Mr. Spicer said he thinks the man may have ducked into the building before he reached Spadina Avenue. He called 911 about a half an hour later.

Early Sunday afternoon there were at least five police vehicles outside the mall, including two cruisers on the pavement near the main entrance at Yonge and Dundas streets. Two uniformed officers were standing by the revolving doors as the mall remained closed for the day.

The area around the mall, Toronto’s largest shopping centre in the downtown core, was quickly blocked off Saturday and the Eaton Centre itself was evacuated and closed down.

Marcus Neves-Polonio, a 19-year-old busser at the food court, said he was walking when a man took out a gun and started firing near the Big Smoke Burger.

Mr. Neves-Polonio said he witnessed someone being shot right in the chest.

He said he saw two people on the ground.

He ducked under a table. "I just hoped he wouldn't go in my direction," he said. "I easily could have been shot, too."

The scene became "mayhem" as people scattered, running for the doors, said Mr. Neves-Polonio.

Ujjawal Patel, 28, said he was inside the Eaton Centre when he heard 12 to 15 shots ring out. He quickly fled.

"I was so scared," said Mr. Patel. "If it can happen in the Eaton Centre it can happen anywhere."

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford came to the mall after 9 p.m. to express his sadness.

"First of all, I want to extend my condolences to the family of the victims ... hopefully they pull through. This incident tonight is absolutely terrible, and I'm here to offer my support to the police," Mr. Ford told media.

"I was just at a football game this afternoon with 13-, 14-year-old kids ... I hope the young man pulls through, and I'll do everything I can to support him, his family and all the other shooting victims too."

The mayor was joined shortly after by police Chief Bill Blair, who said that "we are very much at the early stages of this investigation." He encouraged anyone with information about the shooting to contact 52 Division at (416) 808-5200.

Chief Blair told reporters the shooting appears to be targeted, "but there are a number of other people who were clearly innocent bystanders going about their daily lives."

Later in the evening, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty issued a statement of condolence, giving thanks to first responders who arrived on the scene.

"On behalf of all Ontarians, I want to express my condolences to family and friends of everyone involved in tonight's shooting at the Eaton Centre," the Premier said. "The victim and those who were injured are particularly in Ontarians' thoughts and prayers right now as we attempt to make sense of this instance of senseless, tragic violence in the heart of a peaceful city."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement Sunday, saying he was "... shocked and saddened to learn about the deadly attack at the Eaton Centre in Toronto yesterday."

"Canadians should be assured that such depraved and monstrous acts will be met with the full force of the law," he said.

Toronto Blue Jays baseball player Brett Lawrie was in the mall when the shooting took place and was one of the first to take to Twitter to break the news.

It’s not the first time the area has seen gunfire.

In 2005, 15-year-old Jane Creba was killed and six others were wounded on Boxing Day, 2005, when shots rang out just north of the shopping centre.

With reports from Kim Mackrael, Chris Hannay, Paige Ellis, Evan Annett and The Canadian Press

Were you at Eaton Centre when shots were fired in a food court on Saturday evening? Send us your photos and videos and we’ll collect them on our website.

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