POLITICS

Suspect at large after deadly shooting in Toronto's Little Italy

06/18/2012 04:24 EDT | Updated 08/18/2012 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Police believe a deadly daylight shooting outside a gelato shop in Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood where dozens of soccer fans had gathered to watch a European Championship game on Monday was a targeted attack.

Toronto police Const. Wendy Drummond said reports of gunshots came in at about 3:30 p.m. at the Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe near College St. and Ossington Ave.

A 35-year-old man from Toronto suffered gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene. Another man was taken to a nearby hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police are looking for a suspect described as six feet tall with blond hair. He was wearing a white hard hat, a safety vest and a white filter mask and was seen running north from the scene.

The shots rang out as soccer fans had gathered to watch Italy play Ireland in a game that sent the Italian team into the Euro 2012 quarterfinals. Drummond urged the crowds of soccer fans spilling out of the area cafes following the game to respect the crime scene.

A woman who lives in an apartment above the cafe said she heard the shots and ran to the window. From there, she watched as throngs of people fled while a woman and her son — a young man somewhere between 16 and 24 years old — stood in front of the patio and frantically called out to someone inside.

"They were clearly yelling to whoever was in there," said Louisa, who did not want her last name used.

"The son was pretty hysterical, yelling 'Dad,' over and over again. There was a guy screaming down there as well, but I couldn't see him because he was under the awning."

Local television images showed one injured man being transported on a stretcher to a nearby ambulance.

Meanwhile, just a few streets away, soccer fans — unaware a shooting had occurred — continued to party, coming out of bars and onto College St. as music blared.

Nadine Tyshynski, who works at a nearby pet store, said she heard the shots and then saw a woman fleeing down the street while screaming in distress. She was being escorted by another person.

"It's a real family neighbourhood," said Tyshynski. "In the middle of the day. It's shocking."

Rachel Weeks, who works at a child centre located across the street from the cafe, said she was in the basement when she heard five shots ring out.

Next, she said, came the crush of breaking glass and a cry for someone to call the police.

Weeks and her coworkers called 911 and then waited in the basement for about an hour before leaving the cordoned-off area.

Monday's incident comes just two weeks after another broad-daylight shooting that rocked the city.

Gunfire erupted in the food court of the Eaton Centre shopping mall on June 2, killing one man instantly and sending several others to hospital. Another man died of his injuries last week.

Christopher Husbands is charged with first degree murder in the deaths of Ahmed Hassan and Nixon Nirmalendran. Police have said the three men all belonged to the same gang, but believe the shooting was motivated by a personal dispute.

The Eaton Centre shooting renewed calls to ban handguns, which gun control advocates contend serve no legitimate purpose unlike long guns used in hunting.

Such arguments have met staunch opposition from the gun lobby and other critics, who argue a ban would have little effect against illegal handguns typically used to commit crimes.