A man is dead after being shot by police, putting an end to afternoon lockdowns at multiple schools across the Port Union area of Scarborough.
However, police remain tight-lipped about what actually happened near Maberley Crescent and East Avenue.
Toronto Police Chief James Ramer spoke from the scene for roughly 10 minutes on Thursday afternoon, saying he was “prohibited” from sharing details as the province’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), is investigating the case.
Initial reports said the man was walking in the area with a rifle, police said. Ramer acknowledged tensions were particularly high given that only two days earlier a gunman entered a Texas elementary school classroom and killed 19 children and two teachers.
An SIU spokeswoman said preliminary details so far indicate that two police officers fired their weapons at the suspect, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
A long barrel firearm was recovered, she said, but it’s too soon to confirm whether the man was holding the weapon when officers shot him.
The Texas massacre was on the mind of local resident Roderick Brereton, who said he first realized something was amiss when he saw police cars “racing … very, very much on an urgent matter.”
According to police, multiple residents called 9-1-1 shortly before 1 p.m. with reports that a man in his late teens or early 20s was in the area with a rifle. Callers described him as wearing a white ball hat and a three-quarter length coat.
Brereton said it was maybe five minutes after he first saw police officers that he heard gunfire. He heard the man was taken away on a stretcher and that it looked as though they were doing CPR.
Shortly after 2 p.m., police reported that: “There is no wider threat to public safety.”
Joseph Howe Senior Public School, Sir Oliver Mowat Collegiate Institute, Charlottetown Junior Public School, Centennial Road Junior Public School, and William G. Davis Junior Public School went into lockdown as a precautionary measure, the police chief said.
Charlottetown, Centennial, and William G. Davis were soon moved into hold and secure, according to the Toronto District School Board. That means the day continued as normal inside but the schools’ outer doors were locked as a precautionary measure.
“Police were confronted by an individual,” Ramer said.
He said nobody is believed to have suffered any physical injuries, but that resources will be made available as a result of “how traumatic this must have been for some people.”
Inaaya Zaman, who’s in Grade 5 at William G. Davis, said she realized the lockdown wasn’t a drill when it lasted longer than 20 minutes.
“There was a mass shooting in Texas and that was really sad, so knowing about this person that is armed, it feels like they were going to shoot the school and I was feeling really tense,” she told CBC News after her father picked her up.
She said some of the students were “terrified” of making noise, so they used a whiteboard to talk to each other.
“It felt scary,” agreed Anela Limanosk, who’s also in Grade 5.
Meagan Ryder said she was at home when she first saw fire trucks go by. She didn’t think much of it until the school’s chat group started to buzz.
“It was a little alarming,” she said, holding her son Grayson close to her as she spoke.
Grayson said the principal told the students to keep quiet, so the third grader found a hiding spot that he shared with a friend.
He said the father of one of his friends saw a man “with a gun on his shoulder.”
“We’re pretty happy we’re heading home,” his mother said.
Ramer said Toronto police “will step up patrols in the area.”
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