Toronto’s latest homicide victim is the younger brother of a man fatally shot in the Eaton Centre last year, a homicide detective confirmed Friday, but so far no evidence has emerged to connect the two killings.
Nisan Nirmalendran, 21, died in hospital after he was shot late Thursday at the entrance to a public-housing seniors’ residence on Bleecker Street near Carlton and Sherbourne streets, just west of Cabbagetown.
His brother, Nixon Nirmalendran, 22, was one of two people shot and killed in the Eaton Centre food court in June. A man is in custody facing two counts of first-degree murder in the double homicide, whose brazen violence shocked the city.
No arrests have been made in Thursday’s killing, which was also alarming in the threat it posed to bystanders.
Video footage from the scene shows that when the gunfire erupted at around 11:20 p.m., an elderly resident of the building was going inside. As a plate-glass door panel in the vestibule was blown out, Mr. Nirmalendran, who was known to police, appeared to have been using the woman as a shield as he swivelled, trying to dodge the gunman.
She was not physically injured, but Det. Sgt. Terry Browne agreed the footage is “disturbing.”
Why Mr. Nirmalendran and his assailant were in the building is unclear at this stage, he said, because they had no known connection to it.
The Nirmalendran family immigrated to Canada from Sri Lanka, according to lawyer Christopher Assie, who represented Nixon, Nisan’s older brother who was killed last summer in the Eaton Centre.
Court documents show Nixon had a history with police that dated back to 2007.
When he was 18, he spent 15 months in jail after he tried to rob a group of kids with a pellet gun. In a raid in his home a year later, police found a loaded handgun and crack cocaine but weren’t able to convict him for any crimes because he was able to argue in court that the officers did not have proper grounds to execute the search. At one point, he was charged with murder against another man at the Don Jail but the charges were dropped.
The suspect in Nisan Nirmalendran's shooting is a black male wearing a grey-coloured jacket with a hood and a white shirt.
A third man was also glimpsed on videotape, and detectives are anxious to interview him.
“We don’t know who he is, we don’t know what role, if any, he played in the shooting,” Det, Sgt. Browne said.
“We believe he is a friend of the deceased and he is captured leaving the building moments before the shooting occurs.”
Police are also seeking two cars seen speeding away from the crime scene – a silver-coloured minivan, possibly a Dodge, and a sport-style Acura.
As for a possible connection between this homicide and the Eaton Centre violence last summer, “Obviously any time two members of a family are murdered, it causes concern for everyone,” Det. Sgt. Browne said.
“But right now we have nothing to suggest the two incidents are related at all.”
The homicide is Toronto’s 13th so far this year, and the sixth gun death. This time last year, the total stood at 10.
With files from Matthew Robinson