OTTAWA - Toronto police called the shooter who opened fire in a downtown mall Saturday "one idiot with a gun."
But some gang experts argue public shootings like the one at the Eaton Centre that left one man dead and several other people wounded are part of an effort by gang leaders to make themselves look like anything but idiots.
Gangs are increasingly taking their fights public to gain fame and notoriety, said Const. Doug Spencer, a Vancouver transit police officer who works with the city's Odd Squad Productions Society on crime prevention.
Public shootings are designed to send a message, Spencer said.
"They say if they'll do it there, they'll do it anywhere, you don't want to mess with those guys, they're crazy, and that's the reputation they want."
Spencer said Vancouver-area police began noticing a change in gang activity about three or four years ago when fights that used to be waged in back alleys suddenly burst onto public streets.
In 2007, six people were killed at a Surrey, B.C., apartment. Four had criminal connections, but two were innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Since then, B.C. police have been called to shootings outside high-end restaurants, a casino and last month, outside a recreation centre in Port Moody, B.C.
Spencer contends the media attention given the shootings fuels the egos of gang members.
"They don't have to go on Facebook or the Internet to get their reputation out there, it's out there now," he said.
"They love it, they love the attention. It builds up their reputation so guys won't screw around with them."
Another expert who recently spent time interviewing jailed gang members says many of the older ones complain about there no longer being any code of conduct.
Michael Chettleburgh says the rules gang members operated by in the 1980s and 90s that, for example, forbade selling drugs to kids or involving civilians in their business, have vanished.
"It's kind of like the gang business has met the 'me' generation," he said.
"There's no empathy, no morals, no care in the world, it's just about them."
Toronto police said Sunday that they think they know the identity of the Eaton Centre gunman, and that the man he killed was known to have gang affiliations.
The shooting recalled dark memories of the 2005 Boxing Day shootout between gang members that left 15-year-old Jane Creba dead and six others wounded. The gun fight happened just a block away from the Eaton Centre on Yonge St, at a time when it was crowded with shoppers.
While some gang members may delight in going public with their violent crimes, Chettleburgh said there's no cachet in killing civilians.
He said that after Creba was gunned down, older members of the gang involved were irritated because of the heat brought to bear by police.
And he believes the same is likely to happen in the latest case if gang involvement is proven.
Older members are increasingly leaving the gang scene because of the change in tactics, said Chettleburgh.
"They don't know what to make of the violence."
He added that outside of equipping malls with airport-style security, there's little police can do to stop public gang-style shootings from happening.
For their part, police are urging the public to remain calm.
"One idiot with a gun on a Saturday afternoon in downtown Toronto does not speak to the state of affairs of the city of Toronto," acting deputy chief Jeff McGuire told a news conference Sunday.
"This has incredible ability to create fear and angst amongst people but we're here to tell you we're investigating very carefully."
But the public displays of gang strength are extremely frustrating for police, Spencer said.
In B.C., gang members are literally hunting each other down and often don't care who else is around because it may be their one shot at the intended target, Spencer said.
"That's frightening for the police, absolutely frightening," he added.
"Because you're getting completely innocent people in the cross hairs of a rifle."
Flowers lie at the door as a member of a cleaning crew is pictured in the empty foyer of Toronto's Eaton Centre on Sunday, June 3, 2012. Police continue to investigate the Saturday's shooting which resulted in one death and seven injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Members of a cleaning crew are pictured in the window of Toronto's Eaton Centre on Sunday, June 3, 2012. Police continue to investigate the Saturday's shooting which resulted in one death and seven injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
A police officer is pictured in the empty foyer of Toronto's Eaton Centre, as a colleague and his police cruiser is reflected in the window, on Sunday, June 3, 2012. Police continue to investigate the Saturday's shooting which resulted in one death and seven injuries. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTOS
Toronto police order bystanders to clear a path so EMS can move the injured to transport. (Brian Trinh)
A male gunshot victim lies on the floor at the Urban Eatery food court in Toronto's Eaton Centre as EMS tends to his wounds. (Brian Trinh)
A female victim lies on the second floor at the Eaton Centre as EMS tends to her injuries. (Brian Trinh)
Male gunshot victim lies on the floor at the Urban Eatery food court in Toronto's Eaton Centre. (Brian Trinh)
Mall security officers escort workers during the chaos. (Brian Trinh)
Toronto police seal off entrances to the Eaton Centre to conduct their interior search. (Brian Trinh)
The intersection of Yonge and Dundas was blocked off while Toronto police conducted their search for the shooter. (Brian Trinh)
The scene outside the Queen Street entrance of the Eaton Centre on Saturday, June 2, 2012. (Brian Trinh)
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford watches the activity outside the Eaton Centre in Toronto, Saturday, June 2, 2012. A shooting that sparked mass panic at Toronto's Eaton Centre killed one person Saturday and injured seven others. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Victor Biro
The Toronto Star has spoken with accused gunman Christopher Husbands' father, Burchell Husbands, who says he is scared his family will face relation from gang members.
“Right now the whole family’s scared,” he told the Star. “We don’t know who’s going to come here just now.”
According to Husbands, his son became involved in Regent Park gangs as a teenageer and recently survived an attack that left him with 20 stab wounds.
Toronto Police have released a photo of Ahmed Hassan, the 24-year-old man killed at the Eaton Centre.
Police have also posted a transcript of their statement from today's press conference here.
The man killed in the Eaton Centre shooting was facing charges in Fort McMurray, Alta. for drug trafficking, reports the CBC.
Hassan was charged with trafficking cocaine in January 2010 along with five others.
CBC also reports that Hassan was a suspect in the murder of one of his co-accused.
Christopher Husbands made his first court appearance today, reports the Globe and Mail.
Husbands, 23, is charged with one count of murder and six counts of attempted murder.
There are also reports of a gun being fired downtown just a few hours before the Eaton Centre shooting in the Alexanda Park neighbourhood, reports the Globe:
Mike Spicer said he heard gunshots and saw a man running east -- in the direction of the Eaton Centre -- while holding a gun. The man was running toward Spadina on a street several blocks south of College Street, Mr. Spicer said.
“We heard three shots fired, and we just said, ‘Oh, it sounds like a gun,’” he said. “And all three of us looked that were in the car and there was a guy running down the street toward us with a gun.”
He said the man was holding a handgun in his right hand as he ran. He described him as black and said he was wearing a grey hoodie and loose-fitting black jeans.
Police have so far declined to comment on reports of the Spadina-area shooting.
Councillor Adam Vaughan said it’s not clear how, or if, the two incidents are related. “For a while it looked like the two were directly connected, but they are part of the same issue we’ve been managing, or trying to manage, without any resources,” he said. “But it’s unclear now how intricately the two are related.”
|@ acoyne : Cops say suspect had just got out of jail (5 yrs) for crimes related to 2005 "Summer of Gun." http://t.co/S5mAvv2x|
"It's been a terrible couple of days," said Toronto Mayor Rob Ford at the press conference, repeating that he believes Toronto is the safest city in the world.
In response to a media question about city youth outreach, he said that he doesn't "think we need more youth workers. Proof is in the pudding, crime is going down every year."
Det. Sgt Borg: "I do not believe this to be a gang-motivated shooting."
He added, "I believe there's personal aspects involved."
Det. Sgt. Brian Borg has confirmed that 23-year-old Christopher Husbands of Toronto will be charged with one account of first degree murder and six accounts attempted murder.
Husbands surrendered to police at 2:20 a.m. last night with his lawyer present. He was under house arrest at the time of the shooting.
The autopsy of Ahmed Hassan was completed yesterday and the official cause of death is gun shot injuries.
The 23-year-old man still in hospital with neck and chest remains in critical condition.
The 13-year-old boy "continues to improve" and Det. Sgt. Borg says he is "extremely happy to report that both he and his family are doing well in spite of all that they have endured."
|@ TorontoPolice : Anyone with photo/video from shooting homicide at Eaton Centre is asked to send it to TPS Homcide via http://t.co/uQqXmfbS ~wd|
|@ dwightdrummond : In an hour Toronto police will identify Christopher Husbands as the suspect in the Eaton Centre shooting.|
|@ kimberlyviv : In the Eaton Centre... Urban Eatery is dead... So weird to see it that way.|
|@ KatieSimpson24 : I'm told the Eaton Centre shooting suspect is either in his 20s or very early 30s. Further arrests are not expected. Full details coming up|
|@ MarinaStrauss : Scene of the crime @ eaton centre. Pple staring down at fOod court in disbelief. Closed today. Reopening tomorrow http://t.co/7VnPhm3n|
The suspect in the shooting case turned himself into police last night at 2:30 a.m., accompanied by his lawyer reports the Globe and Mail.
Toronto Police will be providing an update on the suspect this afternoon.
|@ globeandmail : Torontonians remain unafraid in wake of Eaton Centre shooting http://t.co/1Cd0Cofi (from @globetoronto)|
Nick Kalakonis, 22, was hit in the thigh by a bullet, but considers himself lucky his injuries ended there.
|@ globeandmail : Relatives of Eaton Centre shooting victims share their views on Toronto http://t.co/kcBa21bX (from @globetoronto)|
|@ globeandmail : Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty respond to the Eaton Centre shooting http://t.co/Y1CVFTWh|
|@ HiMYSYeD : Message written on Eaton Centre Door. #EatonCentreShooting #Toronto http://t.co/3yKMfaru|
Thirteen-year-old boy who suffered the most serious injury in the Eaton Centre shooting showing "signs of improvement," according to the National Post. Infographic details all known facts about the victims.
|@ Usualsuspectguy : At the vigil for the Eaton Centre shooting that happened yesterday taking place at Younge & Dundas Sq http://t.co/b4B1JjW4|
A vigil for the Eaton Centre shooting victims will take place at Yonge-Dundas Square at 6 p.m.
The Facebook page advertising the vigil reads:
"On June 2, a horrible event happened in Toronto. Someone went into one of the city's favourite places, and decided to open fire. They killed one person, injured a few more, and the resulting chaos resulted in two more injured.
This is not Toronto."
|@ stephaniesmyth : #Toronto #EatonCentre to re-open for business tomorrow; however food court - scene of fatal #Mallshooting - to remain closed until Tuesday.|
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford began his Sunday afternoon radio show with a statement on the Eaton Centre shooting.
"Every heart in Toronto was torn last night, as we all learned about the horrible tragedy that resulted from a senseless, cowardly crime," he said. Read the full statement on Blogs.canoe.ca.
Both Toronto Police and Mayor Rob Ford are stressing that this is an isolated incident and Toronto is still a safe city.
"This is one very large horrific event, but it's not the state of the city of Toronto, it's an isolated incident," said deputy chief Jeff McGuire. "Please do not gauge the city on what we saw yesterday."
Ford called Toronto the "safest city in the world" and encouraged people to "go downtown, enjoy themselves, go out with their family, continue to live as they do."
Police are releasing very few details about the investigation, only that the abundance of security cameras has proved "extremely fruitful" for investigators.
They are asking anyone who was at or around the Eaton Centre at the time of the shooting and has any information to call the homicide squad or Crimestoppers.
Anyone with photos or video from the scene are especially being urged to aid police in their investigation. Det. Sgt. Borg said police will release more details tomorrow on how witnesses can send in photos and video.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford described yesterday's shooting as "very upsetting as the mayor and as a father. It wasn't a good day yesterday."
Ford is confident that the shooter will be caught.
"We will apprehend the suspect, I guarantee it," he said. "We're not going to tolerate this in our city and we will make an arrest."
At a press conference, Det. Sgt. Brian Borg confirmed that the police believe they have identified the shooter, but have not released any details on their identity. As well, police say there is a possible gang connection as at least one of the victims has know gang ties.
"Our investigation clearly suggests this is a targeted shooting and not a random act of violence," said Det. Sgt. Borg.
He said police have not ruled out that there was a second target among the victims.