Toronto police have launched a massive investigation into fatal weekend gunfire at a suburban shopping centre, asking everyone who was at Yorkdale mall Saturday evening to contact them.
The parking lot shooting – which left one dead and another seriously wounded – involved multiple firearms but did not appear to be connected to earlier outbreaks of public violence, said the detective heading the investigation.
“I have no indication, at this point, that suggests it’s gang-related,” Detective Rob North, of the Toronto police homicide squad, told reporters in a midday briefing.
“I don’t think this should be a concern for the public. This was a very isolated incident between two groups … we’re not talking about people who come here and shoot random people coming out for, you know, an evening with their family to the mall.”
Shortly after 8 o’clock Saturday evening there was a spate of 911 calls, reporting gunfire at the mall. Officers responding to the scene found a person suffering “obvious gunshot wounds.” He was pronounced dead at the scene. Another man was found in another area of the parking lot and brought to hospital, where he is in stable condition.
The fatal victim was identified as Michael Nguyen, 23, who was known to police. The other victim is also known to police, but in a “very minor” way. His age was given as 24 but his name was not released. He is expected to survive.
Most of the mall was closed Sunday for Easter. Would-be shoppers turning up in the morning tended to be more upset at not being able to get in than about the violent incident of the previous evening.
“I would like to request any person who may have been in Yorkdale mall, or outside of Yorkdale mall, at approximately 8pm [Saturday] to please come forward to the police,” Det. North said.
Vehicles trapped overnight behind the investigators’ cordon were gradually being released Sunday to their owners. One car, a gray Toyota described as a “vehicle of interest,” was towed away mid-way through the day.
The shooting came after an altercation between two groups of people, though it’s unclear whether the dispute started inside or outside the mall. Police were still trying to piece together whether the victims were part of the same group or were antagonists.
Det. North could not describe the suspects or how they got away but said that police believe more than one firearm was involved. In an earlier briefing, he had said that they were seeking five or six suspects.
The incident follows other high-profile violence in public places. A shooting last summer at the Eaton Centre downtown killed two. Only weeks later, a block party in Scarborough turned violent, leaving two dead and 23 injured.
But Det. North cautioned against undue public fear.
“I believe Toronto’s a very safe city, it’s no different than any other major metropolitan city,” he said. “I would not want to draw any references to any other major incident that’s happened in this city. We have no information that this incident is connected to any other incident in this city.”