Vaughan resident says he feared Francesco Villi, condo board fight would ‘end very badly’

A resident of a condo building in Vaughan, Ont., where a mass shooting took place Sunday evening says he felt that a years-long dispute between the now-deceased suspect and the condo board would “end very badly.”

John Santoro said Monday that he was on the condo board for a year around five years ago when Francesco Villi had a complaint about noise in his unit coming from the electrical room below.

Police have identified the gunman as 73-year-old Villi and Global News has learned that he was involved in a dispute with the condo located on Jane Street just north of Rutherford Road, where five victims were killed Sunday and a sixth injured.

Santoro said it would have been around $15,000 to put some insulation in and make the repair, but Villi started posting negative comments on Facebook about the board of directors.

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Read more: Police name gunman in Vaughan mass shooting, was involved in dispute with condo

A legal battle then ensued between the board and Villi, Santoro said.

Santoro said there was then an effort to have him evicted from the building — a hearing on that was reportedly supposed to happen on Monday.

“I think he was just left in a position where he had nothing left to live for,” Santoro said.

He said the situation is “tragic.”

“If you go onto his social media, clearly you’ll see that this man required some professional help,” Santoro said.

Villi’s social media accounts have numerous videos where he rambles about living conditions at his condo, which Villi said was unit 104.

Santoro said Villi was a “nice man” who was “very religious and very giving.”

“I just think he got tied up in a situation that ended very badly for everybody,” Santoro said.

“I think in a way, I was lucky that I was trying to help him. If I wasn’t trying to help him, my story could have been changed tremendously last night.”

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John Santoro, a resident of a condominium building where a shooting took place, speaks to media the day after the incident in Vaughan, Ont., on Monday Dec, 19, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey

Santoro said based on the situation with Villi and the condo, “I’ve commented to my wife several times ‘this is going to end very badly.’”

But he said violence was never threatened and he actually had Villi in his apartment several times.

“I’d like to put my condolences out to everybody involved,” Santoro said.

Villi had a firearms acquisition certificate, Santoro said, but he didn’t know if Villi actually legally owned the gun used.

Police haven’t said whether Villi was a legal gun owner.

The Special Investigations Unit, which is investigating the police shooting death of Villi, said he used a semi-automatic handgun.

‘A lot of people were fearful of him’

Other neighbours who spoke to Global News painted a rather different picture of the gunman — indicating that residents were fearful of him.

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Antonio Galloro, who has lived in the building for around 13 years, said he knew of Villi and they had actually been in each other’s apartments.

“He just had a reputation of being very, you know, off-centre. He wasn’t mentally all-there,” Galloro said.

“A lot of people were fearful of him when they would see him.”

Galloro said he and the other neighbours are in shock.

“You never think that it would reach this point,” he said.

“He felt that he was being targeted and I think that played into his paranoia and he felt like he needed to resolve it violently…. It was his mental state.”

Read more: ‘It’s just unspeakable’: Vaughan mayor reacts to deadly mass shooting

Galloro said Villi viewed himself as a victim, “But he was so — he was very aggressive with people, very rude, so he wasn’t by any means, you know, in my opinion, someone that you would feel sorry for.”

Galloro said Villi had brought him into his apartment to show him what he claimed was noise from the room below as well as some sort of unpleasant smell.

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Galloro didn’t hear or smell anything, however, which made Villi upset.

“He became perturbed and I left,” he said.

Maliha Kamal lived there for four years.

“Franco Villi, he kept going on and on for days and years,” she said, adding that he would try to get her to be on his side in the dispute with the condo.

“We all felt threatened, all the time,” she said, but never thought the outcome would be a mass shooting.

She said Villi had also invited her inside of his condo to see the alleged issues that he had, but she never went.

She said she last saw him on Sunday before the shooting and in the days leading up to it, “he was just out of his mind.”

Francesco Villi in a video posted to Facebook on Sunday, just hours before he went on a shooting rampage. Facebook

3 of the victims were on the condo board

York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said during an afternoon press conference Monday that Villi died after an interaction with an officer on the third floor of the building.

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Among the victims who died were three men and two women, all of whom lived at the building. They were killed in three separate units on different floors, MacSween said.

A sixth victim, a 66-year-old woman, was seriously injured in the shooting and remains in hospital.

Three of the victims were on the condo board, MacSween said.

As for the motive, MacSween said officers were still investigating.

“The motive for the shooting remains part of this very complicated, very fluid investigation, which is still ongoing at this time,” he said.

Read more: 3 men, 2 women killed in shooting at Vaughan, Ont., condo building: police

Social media accounts run by Villi include a number of videos where he rambles about living conditions at his condo, including one posted just before 2 p.m. Sunday.

Global News was in court Monday morning where the ongoing dispute between Villi and the condo was set to be addressed, but Justice Mary Vallee confirmed Villi was dead.

The Canadian Press reports that Villi filed a lawsuit against six directors and officers of the board in 2020. He alleged the board members “committed acts of crime and criminality from 2010 onwards.”

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Villi alleged the directors had deliberately caused him five years of “torment” and “torture” related to alleged issues with the electrical room below his unit, court documents said.

Justice Joseph Di Luca tossed the case this summer, calling it “frivolous” and “vexatious.”

Read more: Police working to identify motive in ‘horrendous’ Vaughan condo mass shooting

Court documents show the board sought a restraining order in 2018 against Villi for his “allegedly threatening, abusive, intimidating and harassing behaviour” towards the board, property management, workers and residents.

The video Villi posted Sunday shows him calling a member of the condo board a “monster” and alleging building owners, condo board members, lawyers and judges are conspiring against him.

“Everybody are working to destroy me,” he said during the 16-minute video, glasses perched on his nose. “I will never become one of you – liars, demons – never.”

A reporter asked MacSween about the issues between Villi and the condo board members and whether that is a big part of the investigation.

“Well, it will be part of the investigation, but it isn’t the only part of the investigation. We have to look at every aspect of it,” he said.

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— With files from The Canadian Press

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