BY bJosh Dehaas
There were no serious injuries after shots rang out at Toronto’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre on Thursday during the busy back-to-school season.
Toronto Police Supt. Rob Johnson said an altercation broke out around 2:50 p.m. between two groups of males, with “at least three on each side.” At least two bullets were discharged, he said.
“It looks like it’s just one firearm at this point,” Johnson added.
The incident happened in the southeast corner of the mall near a Starbucks. The suspects fled toward the Yorkdale TTC station, Johnson said.
Two bystanders suffered minor injuries from trying to flee the mall, according to Johnson.
Police said shortly after the incident that they were looking for two men believed to be in their 20s. One is described as a black male wearing a hoodie or black jacket and blue jeans. The second is described as a mixed-race male around 5’9” tall, carrying a black handgun.
The Toronto Transit Commission said the subway station connected to the mall had been shut down. GO Transit buses were still running.
One woman who was having coffee with her daughter told local news station CP24 that she heard a bang and assumed it was a balloon popping.
“We looked over and saw a bunch of panic, people running,” she said. “Then we heard a second shot and we had to find cover.”
The mother and daughter hid under a ledge. “There was a little girl who was just clenched onto me,” she said. “I had no idea who this little girl was.”
Minutes later, police asked them to exit across an open area, she said.
“I was scared for my daughter’s life,” she added. “I didn’t know what was going to happen during that run.”
The woman said she saw no one injured but a baby had been knocked out of a stroller during the panic.
Another witness, who works in the dessert shop Nadege, said that she heard two shots and saw people running. She too said she saw a baby knocked to the ground.
“We’re all very shaken up. We just don’t know what to do,” she told CP24.
“We can’t leave because all of our stuff is inside … We have no TTC or taxi service … I’m still shaking .”
One man told CP24 that he was in the Arc’teryx store when he heard what sounded like two gunshots.
“The only thing we could think of was to get to the back of the store,” he said. “About 14 of us got holed up in the backroom of the store and we locked the doors, at which point we tried to get ahold of the police.”
The man said police eventually escorted them from the store.
“It was so surreal,” he said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory issued a statement thanking police and encouraging anyone with information to contact police or Crime Stoppers.
“Whether it is Yorkdale Mall or anywhere else in Toronto, people should not have to worry about gun violence breaking out – at any time,” Tory said.
“There are too many guns available to criminals in the city and I am determined to end that with the help of our police and our government partners,” the mayor added.
Mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat called the shooting “very frightening,” adding in a tweet that she hopes “early reports that there are no injuries hold true.”
In response to an uptick in gun violence in Toronto, Tory called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month to ban the sale of handguns in the city.
Earlier this month, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced $25 million in new funding for Toronto Police to fight guns and gangs.
“It’s time to get serious about fighting guns and gangs,” Ford said at the time. “No more talk. No more grandstanding. It’s time for action.”