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A man with five guns and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition set himself up beside a Beaches water plant yesterday planning to commit mass homicide. But a dog's affection apparently persuaded him not to go through with his plan.

The man started to ready his weapons in the early afternoon sunshine outside the grounds of the R.C. Harris filtration plant at Victoria Park Avenue and Queen Street. He later told police that he planned to shoot people in the park and then drive around the city killing whomever he could to ensure he would get life in jail.

"It's scary how close it could have been," Toronto Police Detective Nick Ashley said last night. "We have a dog to thank somewhere."

The man had several rifles and telescopic lenses, a camouflage balaclava, as well as a .357 magnum and a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, a machete and other knives.

He had loaded his pistols and was readying the rifles, police said. They were in his car's trunk along with the ammunition; he had removed the safeties and trigger locks.

He changed his mind when a dog on a walk in the park would not leave him alone.

"He happens to be a pet lover, and he decided that if there was such a nice dog in the area the people were too nice and he wasn't going to carry out his plan," Det. Ashley said.

Det. Ashley said he had never seen anything like this, nor had he ever seen such a large cache of ammunition.

"It was a beautiful afternoon in a densely populated area," the officer said. "This could have been a dangerous situation had his plans gone further."

Police said the man, who is unemployed and in his mid-40s, arrived in Toronto from New Brunswick early yesterday and had made up his mind to go on a rampage. They did not release his name.

He was not known to police and the weapons were all legally purchased and registered.

"At the moment, our investigation indicates no previous [medical]condition," Det. Ashley said. "He simply states that he had these feelings and he wanted to do these things and he felt that if he shot enough people he would stay in custody permanently."

After abandoning his plan, the man drove around Toronto and found a uniformed police officer.

"He came up to me and said he was armed," Constable Fraser Douglas said. "He said he needed to go to the hospital because he was crazy."

Constable Douglas had been responding to a shoplifting call.

"He said 'I'm going to drive around and kill people at random.' "

The weapons and ammunition have been seized as evidence. The man will be charged with weapons offences, but no charges related to his plans can be laid.

"In this particular situation . . . he didn't carry out his plan. He decided for some reason not to and therefore we can't speculate or lay charges based on speculation," Det. Ashley said.

The man has been calm and polite, according to police, and is co-operating with their questioning.

Police in New Brunswick are doing background checks and the investigation is still in its preliminary stages. Police were trying to reach his family last night.

At a hastily called news conference, police displayed the haul of weapons and ammunition in neatly arranged rows.

The ammunition, all 6,296 rounds of it, was gathered in tidy boxes of blue, grey and red. The guns included a .22-calibre bolt-action rifle with scope, a .30-calibre hunting rifle with scope and a pump-action 12 gauge shotgun.

The man's automobile, a red two-door Subaru, was also on display. A yellow plastic dog's bowl, a quarter full with food pellets, balanced on the back seat. The upholstery was almost invisible under a mish-mash of food wrappers, packets of medication and assorted papers. In the trunk, a collection of CDs revealed a taste for the music of Mariah Carey, the Doors, Abba and Judas Priest.

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