An intense manhunt was under way in Toronto Thursday night after students at a west-end high school were robbed of their cellphones by a gang of armed intruders who fired at least one gunshot and then fled in a stolen car.
"This whole incident is beyond belief," Superintendent Ron Taverner, who heads the 23 Division police station, told a crush of media at the scene.
No injuries were reported but the lunchtime incident at Thistletown Collegiate Institute in Etobicoke left students badly shaken and teams of social workers will be on hand when the school reopens Friday morning, Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird said.
Other robberies have occurred at city high schools, but the brazenness of this one, and the potential for tragedy, was unusual.
The four suspects drove up to the collegiate in Rexdale, near Islington Avenue and Elmhurst Drive, at about 12:10 p.m in their stolen vehicle – a blue, four-door 2006 Toyota with Ontario licence plates ARKC.
Upon arrival one of them made his way into the school with a handgun, stole cellphones from two female students and then tried to rob at at least one male student, police said.
He "did not get far inside the school," Supt. Taverner said of the robber.
Gunfire erupted when the male student ran away from his attacker, exiting the school, and a shot was fired at him, striking a car.
The gang then drove away.
Much of what happened was captured on video and police were seeking four black males thought to be in their early 20s, wearing hoodies. None are believed to be Thistletown students.
The car they were riding in had been stolen two days earlier, police said.
Later on Thursday, police announced they had found a car matching the description of the vehicle used in the robbery, according to a report by CTV.
The school was placed in lockdown until shortly after 3 p.m.
Some frantic parents swiftly converged at the scene, and for a few minutes the situation appeared even more serious than it was.
An ambulance arrived at the school soon after the four suspects drove away, but it had been summoned to aid a pregnant woman who had fainted for reasons unconnected to the drama.
The four men are considered armed and dangerous. Anyone who sees them, is being urged not to approach them but rather to call 911 immediately.