Minutes before 10:00 p.m. on Sunday 22 July 2018, a 29-year-old man walked into a busy Toronto neighbourhood and began shooting people indiscriminately. He walked along Danforth Avenue, shooting others before exchanging gunfire with police and turning his handgun on himself. The shooter killed 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and left 13 people injured. The rampage led to calls for more gun control in Canada.
Known as Greektown, the Toronto neighbourhood along Danforth Avenue in the city’s east end is a popular area for locals and tourists, with many restaurants, cafes and boutique shops. Shortly before 10:00 p.m. on Sunday 22 July 2018, the neighbourhood was bustling with friends and families enjoying a mild, summer evening.
A 29-year-old man dressed in black approached the Alexander the Great Parkette, at the northeast corner of Danforth and Logan Avenues. He raised a handgun and shot 18-year-old Reese Fallon. He also shot and wounded six others before leaving the parkette and making his way west along the north side of Danforth. He walked quickly and aggressively down the sidewalk, waving the gun and yelling at one family to “Get the hell out of the way.”
He began shooting indiscriminately. He stopped several times to shoot into restaurants and sidewalk patios. He continued to fire as he crossed to the south side of Danforth. People screamed, ran and sheltered in the back of stores and restaurants. Bystanders helped people who had been shot to safety. When the shooter shot through the window of Demetres cafe, one of his shots struck 10-year-old Julianna Kozis, who was enjoying ice cream with her family as part of a trip to the city from their home in Markham. She later died in hospital.
Toronto Police officers responded quickly. Two police officers identified the shooter and confronted him after he had turned onto Bowden Street, about 400 m from where the rampage had begun. The officers yelled at the shooter and exchanged gunfire with him. The shooter then fled around the corner to the front of the Danforth Church, at Bowden and Danforth. He shot himself with his handgun and was found dead on the sidewalk.
Police discovered that the 29-year-old shooter had been living with his parents. They obtained a warrant and searched the home. They found many rounds of ammunition for an AK-47 rifle and ammunition for other weapons of various calibres. The shooter had used a 40 calibre Smith & Wesson handgun, which had been made in the United States and exported legally to Toronto in 2013. It was reported stolen in 2016. Police could not determine how the shooter had obtained the weapon but confirmed that he had not applied for nor been granted a firearms licence. (See also Gun Control in Canada.)
None of the electronic devices found at the shooter’s home revealed evidence of any ties to a terrorist or hate group. The shooter’s brother told police that the shooter had a history of severe mental illness and was suffering from depression and psychosis at the time of the shooting. Police concluded that mental illness was the driving factor in the rampage. They reported that no one would likely ever know the shooter’s motive.
The shooter’s name was Faisal Hussain. His mental health issues were documented as far back as 1996. His first contact with police was in May 2010, when he cut his face with a razor blade at his school and had to be taken to a hospital. A month later, police were again called to the school regarding a similar incident. In June 2010, the shooter was diagnosed with an antisocial personality disorder. In February 2012, he called the police to report having suicidal thoughts.
At a press conference after the shooting, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders characterized the shooter as a “troubled individual, who was clinically treated for violent acts against himself and an outward expression of violent thoughts.” Despite the shooter’s long-standing mental health issues, and police concerns regarding potential violence to himself or others, he last sought help from mental health professionals in May 2014. Two days before the attack, he was arrested for attempting to steal ice cream, but no charges were laid.
In December 2019, a class action lawsuit was filed by some of the survivors and the parents of some survivors against Smith & Wesson, the American manufacturer of the handgun used in the shooting. The suit claimed damages of $150 million. It alleges that Smith & Wesson could have but chose not to incorporate safety features into their gun design, such as enabling only the legal owner of a particular gun to pull the trigger. With this feature in place, the suit alleges, the shooter would not have been able to use the stolen weapon. Smith & Wesson sought to have the claim dismissed but in February 2021, the Ontario Superior Court allowed it to proceed.
The victims of the shooting ranged in age from 10 to 59. Reese Fallon and Julianna Kozis had been killed and 13 others wounded. Among the 13 survivors was Danielle Kane; she suffered a shattered vertebra and will never walk again.
Three days after the shooting, hundreds of people massed along Danforth Avenue in a candlelight vigil to honour and mourn those who were shot. At the parkette where the tragedy began, they observed a moment of silence.
The Danforth shooting renewed calls for more stringent gun control laws in Canada. On 20 September 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared in Toronto’s Greektown to announce that his government would introduce legislation to ban assault weapons in Canada. He added that municipalities would be given the power to ban handguns. Toronto mayor John Tory stated that he welcomed the announcement; but like many of the families of the Danforth shooting victims, he had hoped the prime minister would have gone further and issued a Canada-wide ban on handguns.
In February 2021, the Trudeau government introduced Bill C-21, An Act to amend certain Acts and to make certain consequential amendments (firearms). If passed, it would set up a voluntary buy-back program for banned firearms; give municipalities the right to pass bylaws banning handguns; and allow court orders to temporarily remove firearms from someone to help ensure their safety or that of a third party. (See Gun Control in Canada.)