Grief counsellors are helping students mourn the loss of two classmates at separate Toronto high schools after a burst of violence Monday claimed the lives of three young men.
Two teenaged boys were shot to death during what witnesses said was a lunch-hour gathering of students that got out of hand behind a high-rise building across the street from Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School in Etobicoke.
One of the victims was a 15-year-old student from James Cardinal McGuigan Catholic High School, according to Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee Maria Rizzo. The other boy, whom friends identified as 17-year-old Zaid Youssef, attended Don Bosco. Ms. Rizzo called the shootings "a tragedy of the greatest magnitude."
Police have not yet publicly identified the two victims, saying family members are still being notified. Investigators are appealing to the public to contact them with any information relating to the incident.
On Tuesday, crisis intervention teams and pastoral staff were on site to support students at both high schools, said Angela Gauthier, director of education at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.
"We're dealing with the grief and we're trying to make the situation as normal a school day as possible," she said.
Speaking to reporters outside Don Bosco, Ms. Gauthier described the mood inside as "very quiet, I think subdued. … Kids are quite resilient, but, you know, still waters run deep."
In the coming days, Ms. Gauthier said the board will conduct an analysis of whether "there was anything that could have been done that we could have known. At this point in time, they're all big question marks."
Asked about students' claims that the dispute that led to the double shootings began as a fight on Twitter, Ms. Gauthier said: "We haven't had time really to delve into those issues, but I'm sure that'll be some of the things we look at."
Ms. Gauthier said the board has programs to teach students how to use social media and technology. "But these issues have a life of their own and children have a life outside of school, so we impact as much as we can within a professional setting."
In a separate shooting across the city in Regent Park, an 18-year-old man died on Sydenham Street, near Queen and Parliament streets. Police found the man with multiple gunshot wounds and administered CPR, but he died. Some nearby elementary schools were locked down.
Police were still working to definitively identify the teenager and had not yet identified his next of kin by midday Tuesday, Constable Jenniferjit Sidhu said. A post-mortem examination is expected to be conducted on Wednesday.
Investigators are reviewing video surveillance footage from the area, Constable Sidhu said.
Several schools in Etobicoke, including Don Bosco, were also locked down for several hours.
Monday's shooting near Don Bosco comes two weeks after the stabbing death of a student at North Albion Collegiate in Toronto brought new questions about school safety.
The issue came up at Monday evening's mayoral debate. Olivia Chow said the incidents underline the need for a ban on handguns, which she promised to work for if elected.
"There is no reason why people need guns" in the city, she said.
John Tory said the violence was not characteristic of Toronto.
"These tragedies are not something we can ever accept or even expect in our city," he said after the debate. "… I hope that we just redouble our efforts, make sure we keep it a safe city and that involves a number of things we can do on law enforcement, but also on the social side."
Candidate Doug Ford was not asked for comment on the issue.
Schools across Ontario beefed up security policies after the 2007 death of 15-year-old Jordan Manners at C.W. Jeffreys Collegiate. After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, the Ontario government pledged $10-million to install video surveillance equipment and buzzers in schools to make them more secure.
While the victims of Monday's Etobicoke shooting were students, the shooting happened off school property.
Michael Snary, who lives in the area, told CityNews said he was walking his dog and heard shots. Moments before, he saw students running from Don Bosco.
"I thought there was going to be a fist fight. Next thing you know, I heard two gunshots," he said.
A Grade 10 student at Don Bosco who did not want to give her name described the chaotic scene.
"People said that they were outside having lunch and they heard three gunshots and then everyone just started running from behind the [apartment] building into school," she said. The student said the dispute involved students at her school and started with a fight that broke out on Twitter last week.
"If social media has done that, I don't want to talk about social media," Ms. Rizzo said. "I'm sure it's not what Twitter did … it's what was said on Twitter."
Police say one young man was pronounced dead at the scene and another died in hospital. Based on reports from the first police officers to arrive, the victims were shot multiple times, Constable David Hopkinson said.
"It's a great deal of concern that there's people out there with firearms that use them. … We are working on trying to bring those individuals into custody," Toronto Police Services Superintendent Ron Taverner said. "We believe this was targeted."
Detective Sergeant Peter Trimble said one male was taken into custody and is considered a person of interest. Neither officer would comment on suggestions that the shootings followed a fight.
With a report from Elizabeth Church