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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Street gang at heart of Eaton Centre bloodshed

12:27 |

Three men at the heart of the weekend bloodshed at the Eaton Centre, one of whom now faces a murder rap, allegedly have ties to one of the city's street gangs. However, Toronto Police maintain the shooting that claimed one life and sent seven others to hospital, including a pregnant woman and a 13-year-old Port Hope, Ont., boy, was not "gang motivated. "Even though there are several persons who have now been identified in this case as being known gang members, or who have gang associations, I do not believe this to be a gang-motivated shooting," homicide Det.-Sgt. Brian Borg said Monday at a packed press conference at police headquarters. The lead investigator in the shooting making headlines across the country claims Ahmed Hassan, 24, who was killed in the melee, the 23-year-old who was critically injured and the accused gunman -- Christopher Husbands, 23 -- were all connected to the same gang. But he refused to name the gang. "I believe there was personal aspects involved," Borg said. It turns out Hassan was wanted on charges in Alberta and Husbands was on house arrest. Little is known about the third man. Borg wouldn't say why the three met up Saturday afternoon in the crowded food court of one of the busiest malls in Canada. Nor would he say what prompted the violent outburst. The gunfire erupted around 6:30 p.m., prompting shoppers to dive under tables and run for their lives. When the bullets stopped flying, Hassan was dead, the 23-year-old man with him was shot numerous times, the 13-year-old was struck in the head and four other innocent victims -- three women and one man -- suffered minor gunshot wounds. A pregnant woman was also trampled as the frightened crowd scattered, but she and her unborn child are OK. Borg still believes the incident was "a targeted shooting -- not a random act of violence." "There was one shooter, one gun," he said. "Unfortunately, that gun inflicted a substantial amount of human damage." The violence sparked a massive hunt for the gunman, allegedly identified by investigators through surveillance video. Husbands surrendered with his lawyer at a downtown police station around 2:20 a.m. Monday. He is charged with one count of murder and six counts of attempted murder. Borg wouldn't say if the shooting was connected to a gun call police responded to a few hours earlier at nearby Alexander Park, a housing complex at Dundas St. W. and Bathurst St. Nobody was hurt in that incident. At a press conference, acting deputy chief Jeff McGuire thanked the "heroes" in the food court that day who stayed behind to help the injured, He also said Toronto remains a safe city despite the fact shootings are up nearly 45% from this time last year. "It's important we not allow ourselves to become alarmist," McGuire said, adding the number of shootings have actually declined overall in recent years.

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