After Faisal Hussain opened fire on Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue on July 22, and after he ended his life with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, his cellphone rang in his pocket on the ground.
It said “home” on the illuminated screen. When a police officer answered the call, the 29-year-old’s parents were on the line. The officer asked them to come down to the police station.
Those details were revealed in court documents filed by police in relation to the Danforth shooting. The documents were made public for the first time on Thursday, shedding light on Mr. Hussain’s life as well as his activity in the hours leading up to the mass shooting that killed 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and injured 13 others.
Earlier in the afternoon on July 22, Mr. Hussain’s twin brother – whose name, along with those of other relatives, is redacted in the court documents – had come by the apartment to visit his parents. He had gotten married a year earlier and moved out, but said he comes home regularly to help his parents out around the house.
On this visit, he had a conversation with Mr. Hussain (at his mother’s behest, he told police) about getting his life together and finding a wife. Usually, Mr. Hussain listened to him, he said, but this time, the 29-year-old repeatedly referred to himself as “mentally retarded” and went to the balcony to smoke a cigarette.
When his brother left that evening, Mr. Hussain was still at home.
But a short time later – sometime around 8:30 or 9 p.m. – Mr. Hussain’s parents said he, too, left the apartment. He was wearing a shoulder bag. Nothing about it seemed unusual. His mother told police that he regularly went on walks in the evenings, although she didn’t know where.
The shooting began around 10 p.m. The documents outline the chaotic scene on Danforth Avenue, with witnesses struggling to get through to 911 as the system was flooded with calls. One witness described the shooter standing over a woman who had fallen to the ground, firing at her repeatedly with a handgun.
When Mr. Hussain’s brother heard about the shooting, he sent him a text message, advising him to stay home. But when he saw footage of the attack on the news, he recognized his brother as the shooter.
The court documents – which were initially sealed but ultimately released with redactions by Justice David Corbett after a challenge by news organizations, including The Globe and Mail – paint a portrait of a reclusive young man who had no friends and virtually no social life. He worked part-time, at Shopper’s Drug Mart and Loblaws.
His father said he would take him along to the mosque on Fridays, but said Mr. Hussain “[did] not go willingly” and showed little interest in religion. A few years ago, the two of them had gone on a trip to Pakistan. His father recalled that Mr. Hussain did not want to come back to Canada, because people “left him alone” there.
The day after the shooting, Mr. Hussain’s family released a statement noting that he had struggled with “severe mental-health challenges,” including a lifelong struggle with depression and psychosis.
His twin brother told police that Mr. Hussain had “robbed a store with a gun, called the police to say he wanted to kill himself, and had been on anti-depressants.” Mr. Hussain had shown interest in guns when he was “younger,” the brother said, adding that he didn’t know how he would have obtained one.
According to the documents, Toronto police had received three calls about Mr. Hussain in 2010, relating to mental-health issues.
Just two days before the shooting, he had been arrested for shoplifting. He was released unconditionally.
“Faisal Hussain’s only companions appeared to be his parents, and they do not even know him that well and what he has been up to," police noted in their application for a search warrant. “The only way of understanding the true extent of what occurred or was planned is to go to the only place [he] spent time, which is on these devices.”
His cellphone and computers, they argued, would shed light on the motive behind “this heinous crime,” and could help them determine where he got the gun.
A series of cellphones, laptops and tablets were found in the home. The documents note that an “explosives dog” alerted officers to something in a drawer under Mr. Hussain’s bed. It is unclear what, because part of the document is redacted.
An “Islamic head dress” and “a white powdery substance” (believed to be a narcotic) were also found in the drawer.
In addition to electronics, police were hoping to seize any guns or ammunition, any of Mr. Hussain’s identification, “any documents related to planning or preparation of the offences including diaries, address books, maps, and diagrams,” as well as any “substances, products, or building materials that could be used to build an explosive device" and “any literature or documents depicting hate, extremism, terrorism or similar belief or following.”
One police officer noted that “given the amount of ammunition on hand, it is reasonable to believe that this occurrence was planned and that items of planning, both physical and digital on electronic devices, will be located within his residence.”
Police also found cocaine on Mr. Hussain’s body when he died. It’s unknown whether he had taken the drug or was just carrying it.