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Police stand at a crime scene in front of a house where three people have died in an incident involving a crossbow in the Scarborough suburb of Toronto on August 25, 2016.Mark Blinch/Reuters

A brazen midday crossbow attack in Toronto's east end has left three people dead, police said, in a bizarre case that began Thursday afternoon with a grisly suburban scene and continued with the evacuation of a downtown high-rise.

Shortly before 1 p.m., Toronto Police received a call for a stabbing outside a home in a residential area in Scarborough. Officers arriving on the scene found three people suffering from what appeared to be crossbow wounds in the driveway and garage of the home and began performing emergency resuscitation as paramedics arrived.

Two men and one woman were pronounced dead at the scene, paramedics said. One of the victims had a head injury, they said.

Police arrested one man at the scene, who was taken to hospital with undisclosed injuries. Though police have not confirmed the weapon used in the attacks, a police spokeswoman said a crossbow was found on the scene.

Neighbour Jerome Cruz was outside on his patio when he heard a man screaming angrily just before 1 p.m. The screams were followed by a slamming noise that sounded like the door of a garden shed and then yells of "calm down, calm down."

The screaming, the neighbour said, lasted between five and 10 minutes. "It's very shocking," Mr. Cruz said. "It's a quiet neighbourhood.… To hear that three people are dead is very disquieting."

He exchanged small talk about gardening with a woman who lived at the home once, but otherwise didn't know the residents at the address.

Police said all the victims were adults, but did not reveal any other details, including their relationship with the suspect. Police are still notifying next of kin.

"We still have a lot of work ahead of us," Detective Sergeant Mike Carbone told reporters.

Property records show that Susan and William Ryan bought the home in 2010. Mr. Ryan died in February of last year, aged 64.

The street was closed off Thursday afternoon as investigators scoured the scene. By midafternoon, two ambulances remained parked at the front of the house. At least 12 police officers were working the scene, some interviewing a group of young men.

Residents who approached the blocked area said they were shocked by the attack in their quiet neighbourhood. Aerial footage broadcast on CTV showed a large blood stain at the rear of red brick bungalow and an orange tarp spread across the driveway.

Shortly after the slayings, at 2:30 p.m., Toronto police received a report of a suspicious package found in a downtown condo building, which prompted the evacuation of one floor and, for several hours, shut down a portion of the street along the city's waterfront.

Police confirmed a link between the package and the Scarborough attack, but did not say how they were connected. A police spokesman said suspicious packages are usually treated as chemical or biological weapons.

Dale Lounsbury, who sells crossbows at a sporting goods store in Waterloo, Ont., and owns one himself, said they can be dangerous due to their power and accuracy. But they are not suited to firing multiple shots in quick succession, he said.

"Crossbows are not a rapid-fire instrument at all," he said. "I can probably fire two shots a minute, maybe three."

Unlike guns, buying a crossbow does not require a licence.

Toronto's last high-profile crossbow killing came five years ago when Zhou (Peter) Fang shot his father in the back with a crossbow amid a busy branch of the Toronto Public Library.

Mr. Fang was initially charged with first-degree murder but the prosecution accepted a plea of second-degree murder after considering that he was the victim of long-term abuse at the hands of his father. He was sentenced to life in prison in 2012.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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