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I Thought I Lived In A Safe Neighbourhood, Until Someone Got Shot

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September 20. It was an ordinary Tuesday, at least it started out that way. The sun was shining, I worked on a writing assignment in the morning and then I went shopping for a birthday gift. I returned home around 3:15 p.m. "Home" being one of only five mid-sized apartment buildings and condos in a four-block radius, a couple of streets north of the University of Toronto.

Despite being so close to the action, ours is a quiet neighbourhood, filled mostly with stately old homes on beautiful tree-lined streets. There are a couple of pubs and restaurants, a Timmies, a Starbucks and several businesses in converted Victorian houses. And there's a small park that is very popular with dog owners and young mothers with babies and pre-school-age kids.

Who would ever have thought ...?

So there I was, putting things away in my bedroom. Suddenly I heard gun shots, about four. In that nano-second where "gun shots" registered in my consciousness, I told myself I was crazy, that it was probably just a truck backfiring. And then, in as long as it takes to blink, I heard what sounded like machine gun fire and more gun shots.

In the time it took me to run from my bedroom to the living room and out onto my balcony the streets, in all directions, were closed off with yellow crime scene tape, there were police cars and ambulances everywhere and people seemed to be running toward what I'd always thought was a house.

For a minute I wondered if it was a movie in the making ...

My heart was pounding, but the writer in me was curious, instinctively noting details. There was a lot of blood in the driveway leading to that "house" which, in fact, turned out to be lawyers' offices. One of the ambulances backed into the driveway and stopped in front of the door. I did not see them lift anyone into the ambulance, but they must have, because it suddenly took off.

Then I saw a man on the sidewalk literally at the edge of our property. There were EMS workers kneeling all around him, but I had no idea if he was dead or alive. I also saw two silver cars and a silver truck in the middle of the street. There was something white in the front seat of the first car -- totally soaked in blood. Within a minute or two, he was put on a stretcher and wheeled over to a waiting ambulance. His head was wrapped in gauze but he was clearly alive.

From start to finish, this all took about four minutes.

What I now know ...

The victim is Randall Barrs, a prominent defense attorney, who handles a lot of drug and murder cases. Grayson Delong, the shooter (alleged) is known to the police, and was shot by a plainclothes Halton Regional Police officer, conducting surveillance in the area. Whether it was the shooter they were watching or the lawyer has not been made public.

I now know first hand that anything can happen, anywhere, any time and none of us should take "safety" for granted.

He (the shooter) was dressed as a construction worker. Interesting because we are having reconstruction work done in our garage, driveway and entrance way. I wondered if the shooter dressed that way so he'd blend in.

OK, maybe I watch too many crime shows on TV.

More of what I know ...

The shooter tried to get away in that first silver car, a Honda with stolen plates. He exchanged gunfire with the police. And that was a machine gun I heard -- it came from the policeman who shot him.

The lawyer had been shot in the driveway where I saw the blood. He was able to crawl to safety, taking refuge inside the building. He suffered gun shot wounds to his legs, was taken to hospital but was released the next day. Thankfully.

The shooter has been charged with attempted murder and more than a dozen other offences.

I now know first hand that anything can happen, anywhere, any time and none of us should take "safety" for granted.

Having said that we are relatively lucky in this country. I shudder to think of what it's like to live in the U.S. where second amendment rights take priority over a human's right to go about their daily lives without fear of being killed. Where it's just about as easy to buy a gun, even for someone who is mentally ill or a terrorist, as it is to buy a soft drink.

What really freaks me out ...

If I'd come home 15 minutes later, I very likely would have been right in the thick of it, walking right by the shooter, as he was firing at the cops and getting shot himself. I could have been the proverbial innocent bystander -- in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Maybe it's not only cats who have nine lives.

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