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Christopher Husbands arrives in court in Toronto on Monday, June 4, 2012. Husbands was charged in connection with the shooting at the city's Eaton Centre shopping mall in which one person was killed and six injured. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Christopher Husbands arrives in court in Toronto on Monday, June 4, 2012. Husbands was charged in connection with the shooting at the city's Eaton Centre shopping mall in which one person was killed and six injured. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

Eaton Centre shooting suspect makes court appearance Add to ...

 

The man charged with the fatal shooting spree at the Eaton Centre made a brief appearance in the basement of Old City Hall court Monday afternoon.

Clad in a grey jacket and navy blue hoodie, Christopher Husbands stood erect in the prisoner's box and paid close attention.

He nodded often to his lawyer and at one point gave her a thumbs-up as she held a notebook in front of his face.

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He spoke only to give his name and agree that he understood the proceedings.

The court remanded him in custody until August 15, when he will appear by video. On the previous charge, for which he was out on bail, he will return June 25.

Court also ordered him not to contact any of the living victims of the Eaton Centre shooting and imposed a publication ban on their names.

Mr. Husbands and two of his alleged victims are believed to be linked to a common criminal group operating out of east-central downtown Toronto, police sources said following the arrest of a suspect.

The brazen Saturday night shooting in the food court of the shopping centre left one dead, Ahmed Hassan, 24, and six others struck by bullets.

Accompanied by his lawyer, Mr. Husbands, 23, of Toronto, turned himself in at downtown’s 52 Division early Monday, at about 2:30 a.m.

Mr. Husbands will be charged with one count of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.

At the time of the shooting, he was not supposed to be outside his residence since he was on house arrest because of a sexual-assault charge.

Mr. Husbands, Mr. Hassan and a 23-year-old man, who was hit several times in the chest and neck, are all known to police.

"There is indication that they did know each other," Detective-Sergeant Brian Borg said of the accused and the dead victim.

Sources said the three are connected to a group that operated within the territory of 51 Division, the police station responsible for the Regent Park area.

One theory is that the gunman walked into a meeting between the other two.

Police are not looking for other suspects.

“There was one shooter, one gun. Unfortunately that gun inflicted a substantial amount of human damage,” Det. Sgt. Borg said.

While the men were known to police and the shooting was targeted, Det. Sgt. Borg said he did not believe the incident was “gang-motivated.”

"There are personal aspects involved," he said, declining to elaborate.

Two women, who said they were connected to Ahmed Hassan, sat in the body of the court. They declined to speak with reporters.

"We are not close family members," said one. "The family wants confidentiality."

News of an arrest in the 21st homicide of the year capped an edgy 36 hours in Toronto.

A 13-year-old victim of the weekend shooting rampage was in an induced coma in critical condition, but his family in Port Hope, Ont., said Monday that the boy was now alert and speaking.

Mr. Hassan is suspected of having gang affiliations. A man with a similar name is facing robbery, assault and unlawful confinement charges in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Mr. Hassan’s mother lives in Alexandra Park, a small social-housing project just west of Toronto’s downtown, a source said.

Adam Vaughan, the Toronto city councillor whose ward includes Alexandra Park, said the Eaton Centre shooting wasn’t an isolated incident.

“I wish that were true,” he said. “You can’t point to a date on a calendar or an event on a rap sheet and say that’s what caused this. It is part of an intensifying rivalry that defies geographic description in the same way it defies racial description,” he said.

Mr. Vaughan said the Eaton Centre shooting followed about three months of escalating violence involving youths from Alexandra Park and Regent Park, the city’s largest public-housing complex, located east of downtown.

But he stressed that the traditional lines separating gangsters in the two neighbourhoods have blurred, especially since the massive revitalization of Regent Park scattered families from that neighbourhood to other social-housing projects.

The return of some recently released criminals convicted and imprisoned in connection with Toronto's summer of the gun in 2005 has exacerbated the troubles, he added.

“The old way of looking at the challenge we’re facing is to say it was Alex Park v. Regent Park, but it has evolved in recent years and changed dramatically,” he said. “The families live on both sides of Yonge Street … I don’t know the rival groups can tell each other apart. When you hear of an incident, the networks overlap.”

There was a shooting in Alexandra Park about three hours before gunshots rang out at the Eaton Centre.

Mike Spicer said he heard gunshots and saw a man running east -- in the direction of the Eaton Centre -- while holding a gun. The man was running toward Spadina on a street several blocks south of College Street, Mr. Spicer said.

“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 a 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.

Police have so far declined to comment on reports of the Spadina-area shooting.

Mr. Vaughan said it’s not clear how, or if, the two incidents are related. “For a while it looked like the two were directly connected, but they are part of the same issue we’ve been managing, or trying to manage, without any resources,” he said. “But it’s unclear now how intricately the two are related.”

Dozens of shoppers had to scramble out of the mall at the time of the shooting, leaving behind cell phones, purses, strollers or shopping bags. Recovered items can be picked up at the 51 Division police station, at 51 Parliament St., starting tomorrow, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Photo IDs will be required and it is preferable not to call ahead, police said.

Police also urged anyone with photos and videos of the incident to share them with investigators. They can be uploaded on the force's web page.

People with information related to the case were also urged to contact police, even if there had been an arrest.

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