Canada
One dead, 7 injured after shooting at Toronto mall

Police stand guard in front of the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall where a shooting occurred in Toronto June 2, 2012. A shooting left one dead, two critically injured, and eight victims total at Toronto's Eaton Centre, one of the city's top tourist destinations and its main downtown mall.

Credits: Mark Blinch/REUTERS

Ian Robertson | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- A man was gunned down Saturday evening and seven others -- including a pregnant woman and a young teenager -- suffered varying injuries after a mystery gunman unleashed hell in the packed downtown Eaton Centre.

Toronto Police said the man shot dead around 6:23 p.m. in the mall's north-end lower food court was 25.

Three hours later, as investigators tried to piece together witness accounts and reports from doctors as the hunt continued for the shooter, Const. Victor Kwong told reporters a 13-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man remained in critical condition.

A pregnant woman knocked down as thousands of people tried to flee "went into labour," Kwong added.

Her status and that of her baby were not immediately available.

Two women and another man were left in serious condition, and a woman was grazed by a projectile as the gunman kept firing into a crowd, Kwong said.

He said investigators were trying to determine how many victims were shot and those injured in the melee of escaping patrons.

As colleagues cordoned off Yonge St. between Dundas and Queen Sts., a police officer drove an ambulance to nearby St. Michael's hospital as paramedics worked on the man taken from the centre.

Marcus Neves-Polonio, who works in the food court, said "it was absolute mayhem."

The 19-year-old said the centre was unusually busy for a Saturday evening "and if you fire a gun, everyone is going to panic." Standing less than a metre away, near the Big Smoke Burger, "I literally saw a guy pull out a gun.

"He fired ... in the air," then calmly pointed it at nearby shoppers and food court patrons, while continuing to trigger the handgun, Neves-Polonio said.

Describing the killer as a dark-skinned man wearing a hoodie and baggie pants, the Eaton Centre staffer said he appeared to be "just crazy ... mentally unstable.

"He did hit a couple of people," including a man and woman "about my age," plus several other victims.

But as the gunfire continued, Neves-Polonio said "I dove under a table then ran ... I was really scared. I've never seen anything like that."

When the shooting stopped, "I helped some people leave, and police said to evacuate."

Harsh Pandya, who lives downtown, said he heard the shots while shopping with girlfriend Joe Rai in an Aldo shoe store overlooking the food court.

"People began running for their lives," said Pandya, 28. "I never saw anything like this before."

When he looked over a balcony railing, "I saw a black man, about 27 or 28, lying on the bottom of the food court.

"People were sitting there, chairs were lying on the floor," Pandya said. "We're traumatized by this."

Rai, 27, had just finished paying for a purchase "when we heard loud noises, like people falling on the ground.

"There were babies in strollers," she said. "I saw people lying there and there was a pool of blood."

Praising mall security and Toronto Police, Rai said while many shoppers were evacuated quickly, others were kept inside stores for about 15 minutes as officers tried to determine whether the gunman was still inside the centre.

Subway and streetcar travel through and around the Eaton Centre were halted and rerouted as a result of the shooting. At 10 p.m., TTC spokeswoman Jessica Martin said that the subway stations in the Eaton Centre remain closed.

Martin said police were poring over TTC security video in an attempt to learn the gunman's identity or his escape route.

Investigators were also collecting images from store surveillance cameras.

Shortly after all officers -- who were drawn from divisions across the city -- were ordered to report to the police command post on Queen St. W. at 8:50 p.m., Const. Kwong told reporters "we do not have the shooter."

Emergency Task Force and Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) officers combed the sprawling complex, while others guarded all entrances.

As ambulances converged on St. Michael's hospital, teams of ETF officers drove quickly to the Eaton Centre, where their sirens competed with a live concert singer at Dundas Square.

Outside the Eaton Centre, police Chief Bill Blair appealed for anyone with information to call 52 Division at 416-808-5200.

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