Faisal Hussain was named as the 29-year-old gunman in black who shot 15 people – killing an aspiring teenage nurse and a 10-year-old girl – in a popular restaurant area in Toronto known as Greektown.
Conflicting reports emerged about whether the suspect might have allegiance to ISIS. CBS News reported, through a source, that Hussain may have expressed support for ISIS. The Toronto Sun reported that “files being reviewed by police include concern Hussain expressed ‘support’ for a website that was seen as ‘pro-ISIL.'” However, CBC quoted Toronto police as saying they have “no evidence” the mass shooting was “connected to ISIS.”
Hussain, a Toronto retail worker who stocked shelves reportedly born to Canadian parents of Pakistani origin, was named as the Danforth shooter by the city’s Special Investigations Unit. “Due to the exceptional circumstances of the tragic incident last night on Danforth Avenue and the public interest in knowing the identity of the man who was involved in the exchange of gunfire with police, the SIU has identified him,” the SIU wrote, before naming the gunman as Faisal Hussain.
At the end of the mass shooting rampage, a woman and child were dead, a city was traumatized, and 13 others were in the hospital. Faisal Hussain, who used a handgun, died at the scene after an exchange of gunfire with Toronto police. The gunman was from Toronto.
Toronto police later confirmed: “16 people shot in total (includes shooter), 8 women (including 10yr old girl) and 8 men. Three have died, (18yr old woman, 10yr old girl and the shooter). That leaves 13 still in hospital with minor to life-changing injuries.”
The woman who died has been named as Reese Fallon. According to CP24, she was “a recent high school graduate from Toronto’s Malvern Collegiate Institute, and planned to study nursing at McMaster University.” The deceased child was named as Julianna Kozis.
Witnesses described a gunman wearing all black, and an Instagram video appeared to show the shooter opening fire. You can see the video later in this article, but be aware that it’s disturbing. The victims were strewn over a large area in Greektown along Danworth Avenue in a horrific scene that has traumatized Canadians and a city already struggling with rising gun violence and a fairly recent pedestrian van-ramming attack.
An eyewitness described the gunman as shooting like it was “in a video game.”
“He was very relaxed, it was pretty disturbing,” Lenny Graf told Toronto Star.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Reports Say Faisal Hussain May Have Visited ISIS Sites & His Parents Claim He Suffered From Severe Mental Health Problems & Say Their ‘Hearts Are in Pieces’
Police say it’s too early to say whether terrorism is involved. The police chief said both Sunday and Monday in press conferences that Toronto police and SIU were still investigating the motive and were considering all angles.
However, CBS News is reporting, through a source, that Faisal Hussain “visited Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) websites and may have expressed support for the terrorist group. They were looking into whether Hussain may have lived at one time in Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan…There is no indication that Hussain was directed by ISIS to carry out the attack.”
The Toronto Sun also reported that Hussain may have lived in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and this was being investigated. “Hussain apparently had been spoken to by authorities about his online activities. Sources say Toronto Police, the OPP and the RCMP have all had an interest in the now-deceased shooter,” the Sun reported.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack but provided no evidence to back that claim up. The terror group sometimes makes false claims in a bid for media attention. Hussain was not on any federal watch list.
Authorities have not officially said this, however. Canada’s Ministry of Security later said there is “no national-security nexus” to the investigation.
“At this stage, we have no evidence to support these claims,” said Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders. “We will continue to explore every investigative avenue including interviewing those who knew Mr. Hussain, reviewing his online activity, and looking into his experiences with mental health.”
Earlier on, the chief had said the suspect’s motive was unclear.
“I’m keeping everything open. Looking at every single possible motive for this; when you have this many people struck by gunfire, it’s a grave concern,” said Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders. “I certainly want to find out exactly what it is, so I am not closing any doors or any chapters on this. I certainly don’t want to speculate… I don’t know why he did what he did, and he won’t be able to tell us because he is deceased.”
The police chief was specifically asked whether terrorism was involved, and he did not rule it in or out.
Faisal Hussain’s family – his parents – released a statement that said they were “utterly devastated.” A family friend told Globe and Mail the family had been in Canada for decades, having immigrated years ago from Pakistan, and has four children.
In the statement, Faisal Hussain’s family wrote that their son “had severe mental health challenges, struggling with psychosis and depression his entire life.” They said they unsuccessfully tried to get him intervention and added, “we could never imagine that this would be his devastating and destructive end.”
They called the rampage “senseless,” and “incomprehensible.”
“Our hearts are in pieces for the victims and for our city,” the family said. Although some news sites gave Faisal Hussain’s name as Faisal Hussein, SIU spells it Hussain.
Here’s the full statement from Hussain’s family:
The families of the victims are left to grieve the loss of a promising young woman and a child.
“We have a young lady that is deceased,” the chief said. The younger girl who died was initially in critical condition but died on Monday. Saunders said it appears that the shooter died from gunshot wounds, but police were still trying to figure out whether the wound was self-inflicted. He said there was an “exchange of gunfire,” apparently with officers. You can read more about the adult victim, Reese Fallon, here.
Fallon’s family said only: “The family is devastated (and) asks that their privacy be respected at this time.”
The Toronto District School Board released a statement saying Fallon had just graduated from Malvern Collegiate Institute.
“We are heartbroken to learn that a recent graduate of the TDSB was among those who tragically passed away as a result of last night’s violence on Danforth,” read the statement. “An engaging student, Reese Fallon graduated from Malvern CI just last month and was highly regarded by staff and loved by her friends.”
Witnesses gave chilling descriptions of the gunman’s determination and ruthlessness. One witness described how the gunman saw her with a friend through a business window and shot at them.
It’s not the first mass tragedy to strike Toronto. Alek Minassian is accused of ramming a van into pedestrians, killing 10 people, earlier in the year. He had “praised mass shooter Elliot Rodger and referenced a misogynistic online community of angry celibate men in a Facebook message,” reported Telegraph.
2. A Chilling Instagram Video Appeared to Show the Shooter Open Fire & Hussain Still Lived With His Parents, Reports Say
Biographical details were coming out on the suspect, and he reportedly still lived with his parents, despite being 29-years-old. They live in the Thorncliffe area of Toronto.
“Police source tells me @TorontoPolice are on the scene and in the process of executing a search warrant at the home of 29-year-old Faisal Hussain who lived in Toronto’s thorncliffe area with his parents,” reported Global News journalist Travis Dhanraj. Thorncliffe is an area in central east Toronto known for its population density and diversity.
Video that is believed to show the shooter was posted to Instagram in the moments after the rampage, which unfolded around 10 p.m. as families and others gathered for a night out on the popular Danforth restaurant strip. The Instagram user, @ArielAnise, wrote, “WARNING disturbing content @TorontoPolice @CBCToronto Shooting outside our window at Chester and Danforth ? praying for victims.”
You can watch the video above, but be aware that it’s troubling as it shows the gunman open fire.
The Instagram user then deleted her page but not before the video spread on the Internet. Heavy viewed the video on the original page before it was deleted.
Police have not yet confirmed the video’s authenticity, but multiple news outlets in Canada have run it. The video shows a man matching witness descriptions – clad all in black, wearing a cap and carrying a bag – calmly strolling down the sidewalk before suddenly pulling out a gun and randomly firing toward businesses.
The SIU is urging anyone “who may have information about this investigation to contact the lead investigator at 1-800-787-8529.”
3. Neighbors Described Faisal Hussain as ‘Humble’ & ‘Quiet’ & His Family Recently Went Through a Series of Traumas
The Hussain family had recently undergone several traumas, and claims they didn’t know Faisal had a gun, reports Global News. His father underwent surgery, and Faisal’s hours stocking shelves were recently cut, the newspaper reported.
“Hussain was the son of Canadian parents of Pakistani origin who have been struggling through major challenges,” the site reports.
“Hussain’s sister died in a car accident and his brother is hospitalized following a stroke…Hussain worked in retail and would accompany his mother to the hospital to visit her infirm son.”
Neighbors of Faisal Hussain spoke to reporter Ginella Massa of City News and said they were “shocked” by the rampage, calling Hussain “humble” and “quiet.”
That matched the opinion of Aamir Sukhera, a family friend who spoke to CP24. “He was very upbeat and happy every time I saw him. I didn’t identify any triggers. I couldn’t see anything wrong with him,” said Sukhera, who mentored Hussain in a community program.
“You couldn’t tell. He seemed fine. Every time he saw you he’d smile, greet you. Polite, respectful, humble, quiet, kept to himself, didn’t talk to a lot of people. I felt special because he was open with me. I guess he trusted me,” Sukhera said to CP24. “When I heard this is what happened, I can’t put two and two together. I can’t believe it’s him.”
That description paints a stark contrast to what the witnesses observed during the carnage.
A witness speaking on CP24 said the shooter was dressed in black and “running around shooting at people aimlessly” before possibly shooting himself. The witness said even before the police announcement that she believed at least one woman had died. “Two young girls were lying down on the street shot,” she said.
“I heard ‘pop, pop’ and then I turned because I thought it was fireworks … and then the mother of a friend of mine goes, ‘They’re shooting at us — run inside!’” another witness, Stavy Karnouskou, said.
Stavy saw two female victims lying on the ground. “One of them, I could see her legs were blue,” Karnouskou said. “I wanted to help her but didn’t know what to do.”
Global News reported early on: “Paramedics say they’ve transported 6 victims to trauma centres, 1 to pediatric trauma, 2 to local hospitals and are still treating an unconfirmed number of people on the scene.” Some witnesses heard as many as 25 shots, by one account.
4. One Witness Described the ‘Horrific’ Look on Hussain’s Face & Said He Executed a Woman
Andrew Mantzios, a witness, described the shooter as having “this horrible expression on his face” as he fired, seemingly randomly. “And then a lady tried to run and she fell down,” he told Globe and Mail. “He turned around and shot her point blank, two or three times.” The witness said the suspect shot into businesses, including Caffe Demetre, a dessert shop.
Mantzious told the news site that a woman was “executed,” and added that people were “falling all over the place – maybe seven, eight, nine of them.” Mantzious also said: “But the guy … had this look on his face, while I saw his profile, like he was screaming at something and shooting.”
Jeremy Cohn, a digital journalist with Global News Toronto, wrote that victims were “spread across many blocks.” Merella Fernandez, a CTV reporter, described the scene as a popular area with restaurants and said witnesses reported hearing more than a dozen shots.
City News Toronto wrote on Twitter, “Paramedics say the crime scene encompasses a large area and a number of victims have suffered significant injuries.” The mass shooting occurred in the area of Danforth and Logan Avenues, City News reported.
5. Faisal Hussain Did Not Have a Criminal Record But Was Known to Police, Reports Say
Although details are still unfolding, one Global News journalist, Dhanraj, reported that Hussain was “previously known to police and had mental health issues.” However, he later deleted the tweet, and Global News crime reporter, Catherine McDonald, wrote that Hussain had no criminal record. “Police source tells me Faisal Hussain…has no criminal record & was not before the court on any outstanding charges,” she wrote.
CBC later reported that Hussain was apprehended by police twice when he was underage for mental health issues. However, the Toronto Sun alleged that Hussain was well known to police for “investigations into past crimes ‘involving weapons and violence.’”
The earliest moments of the shooting – when news broke fast on social media – were extremely frightening and chaotic. The chaos and anger has morphed into resilience and determination, as #TorontoStrong becomes the catchphrase.
Nicholas Lemon wrote on Twitter that he was at the location where the shooting occurred. “There has been a mass shooting about 2-3 blocks along the Danforth in Toronto where I currently am located. We are safe. But the street has 2-3 dozen EMS, police, fire, etc., vehicles. 5-10 victims (there are unconfirmed death/s). More to come. #torontoshooting #massshooting,” he wrote.
Toronto’s Greektown on the Danforth’s website describes it as “the largest Greek neighbourhood in North America and one of the most cosmopolitan areas of Toronto! Visit our part of town and experience a neighbourhood alive with interesting restaurants, boutiques, shops, markets, cafes, and a host of wonderful experiences.”
Reports on Twitter said early on that there may be multiple victims. “#Breaking – Multiple victims after reported shooting on the Danforth in #Toronto,” wrote CP24’s Stephanie Smyth. Breaking Toronto, a site that monitors police scanners, wrote, “So far… Female GSW to the Thigh, Male with 2 GWS’s to the legs… Female unknown GSW, Child struct (sic) and will be taken to Sick Kids…. Female GSW to the thigh.” Again, this information was not yet confirmed by authorities as the situation was still developing.
“Two more victims located with Gunshot wounds to the lower legs. Trauma Ctr’s will only be taking the most serious. Other hospitals will be assisting with Non-life threatening,” added Breaking News Toronto.
The site alleged early on that police scanners indicate a child was among the victims. “This is a large crime scene. ETF officers are also in the area. If you don’t need to be in the area stay away,” Breaking Toronto wrote on Twitter. “I’ve lost count trying to get all of the information so this is UNCONFIRMED as I am not positive but I count about 8 victims with GSW’s. Victims are still being located.”
The site added, “Patients located at Logan and Danforth. There is now a second location west of Logan and Danforth with patients.”
People expressed anger and fear on Twitter.
Merella Fernandez, a reporter with CTV, wrote on Twitter that Toronto Police “have buses in the area to take witnesses to divisions to be interviewed.”
A man named Jeremy Barker wrote on Twitter, “We heard the shots and live just north on Logan… At 10pm on a summer night it is often filled with families and kids playing around the fountain. #danforth.”