When the sounds of gunfire went off in the lower level of the Eaton Centre, Brett Lawrie was befuddled.
It was only when he saw the stampede of panicked people start to rush up the stairs in an effort to get away that he realized he was in the middle of a serious situation.
“And as soon as we’re going up the first flight of stairs we heard just bang, bang, bang, bang bang – as fast as you could pull a trigger,” the Toronto Blue Jays third baseman said on Sunday. “We kind of were skeptical of what we just heard.
“Sure enough we turn around and there’s a bunch of people running up the stairs. Usually these people wouldn’t be running out of a public place like they were. So that was kind of a trigger to myself and my buddy to get out of there as fast as possible.”
At first, Lawrie said he couldn’t believe that he would be hearing gunshots in one of Canada’s busiest malls.
“You kind of think to yourself, are those shots?” Lawrie said. “That’s not going to happen at the Eaton Centre mall you think that to yourself. And once we saw people run up the stairs and you saw the look on their face, like this wasn’t a little thing. That’s when I knew it was time to get out of there.”
Lawrie and his friend made a hasty retreat out of the mall and across Yonge Street and into a Future Shop where he took pictures of the chaotic scene outside of the Eaton Centre and posted them on Twitter.
“I just thought I’d give it out there just to anybody that could have been in the mall or anybody that needed to get there ASAP,” Lawrie said. “I thought I could give them a good piece of information.”
The shooting at the food court in the mall early Saturday evening left a 25-year-old man dead and injured seven others. “It’s crazy,” Lawrie said before the Blue Jays played the Boston Red Sox at Rogers Centre. “It’s one of those things where you think that it would just never happen. I just found myself at a weird place at the wrong time.
“Thankful that I’m okay and hopefully everyone else is going to be okay that was inside. One person dead. It’s just one of those things that you’ve got to realize that happens in your life and I’m happy that I’m okay.”
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Toronto manager John Farrell said. “And certainly all of our thoughts go out to those who are affected by it.
“But thankfully, as it relates to us, the fact he was there he did what he felt was right and trying to make other people aware of the situation. And I think he did the right thing by evacuating.”
Lawrie said he was thankful he got out of the situation okay.
“But the more that I thought about it it was just kind of like I did get lucky because we were right down there 10 seconds before,” he said. “So you don’t know what could have happened. Just lucky enough to get out of there safe and sound and here today looking for a win.”