A gunman who killed a Toronto police officer in what investigators said was an unprovoked attack also targeted his former boss and colleagues at a suburban automotive garage, according to an eyewitness.
Constable Andrew Hong, 48, and entrepreneur Shakeel Ashraf, 38, were killed on Monday in separate shootings by a man with a handgun who injured three others before police shot him dead. Authorities initially identified the suspect as 30-year-old Shawn Petry in a provincewide emergency alert, although The Canadian Press has since reported that the suspect’s name is spelled Sean Petrie.
The violence erupted in Mississauga shortly after 2 p.m. on Monday, when Constable Hong, who was in the city for a training session and on his lunch break at a Tim Hortons, was shot and killed. Investigators believe the attack on Constable Hong, a 22-year veteran of the Toronto Police Service, was unprovoked. A second person was hit by bullets and suffered what police are calling life-altering injuries.
Few details about the shooter or his motivations are known. After the incident in Mississauga, investigators say they believe he drove in a Jeep Cherokee to the M.K. Collision Centre in Milton, Ont., 17 kilometres away.
An employee of M.K. Collision who saw the attack there said he knew the gunman as a co-worker earlier this year. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the employee because he feared for his safety. He said he was shot at but not hit.
The employee told The Globe he did not know what motivated the attack. He said the gunman worked for the business for only about one month in the spring.
The suspect arrived at the auto shop on Monday, said he wanted to meet with Mr. Ashraf, and waited for up to 20 minutes, the worker said. He said after a short conversation, the gunman started firing; Mr. Ashraf tried to grab at the gunman’s hands but was shot in the head, the witness said. The shooter continued to fire, hitting an employee who was severely wounded in the chest, and a man who suffered less serious injuries to his leg.
Peel Regional Police did not respond to questions on Tuesday about the condition of the two wounded employees, or any other aspect of the case.
On Tuesday afternoon, a police cruiser blocked the garage as detectives worked inside. Passersby laid wreaths of sunflowers and chrysanthemums on the sidewalk, and Omar Ahmed, a former worker, took in the scene.
Mr. Ahmed described Mr. Ashraf as an employer who gave people opportunities. “He was a great person. He was always cheerful,” said Mr. Ahmed, a 21-year-old who worked at the garage for six months last year. “He didn’t deserve this. “
On Tuesday, a steady stream of visitors made their way to Mr. Ashraf’s nearby bungalow in Milton. They mourned him as a family man and a successful immigrant entrepreneur who had started out in Lahore, Pakistan.
“He was very young when he came to Canada,” said Umera Aziz, a family friend. “He had three businesses. He had a collision centre, a mechanics shop and a body shop.”
She said the M.K. in the shops’ signs represented the names of the entrepreneur’s daughters, aged 8 and 11. “He named his auto shop after the initials of his two girls.”
A school bus pulled up outside the house to let out a girl wearing a backpack. “From what I heard, the daughters haven’t accepted it yet, and it’s just very hard for them to take it in,” Ms. Aziz said.
Mr. Ashraf was an avid cricket player. At times he practised the sport in the parking lot of his auto garage, gearing up for organized games he played in a provincial league.
The Event Ontario Softball Cricket League posted his image on its Facebook page early Tuesday and said it was sad to announce that one of its players, “Shakeel from Team MSA Qalandars, died in a fatal shooting today in Milton.”
Constable Hong leaves his wife, Jenny, and two teenagers. The Toronto Police Service veteran worked with a specialized motorcycle unit that provides security escorts for dignitaries such as prime ministers and presidents. He was training other police officers when he was gunned down.
“He was very skilled on the bike,’’ said Jon Reid, president of the Toronto Police Association. “He was a very well-respected police officer, a true professional who loved being a father and a husband and he’s going to be missed by many people.’’
Federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief, told reporters in New Brunswick that the attack against Constable Hong is “a reminder, I think, of the risks that our officers face for us every single day, when they go out to do their job of keeping us all safe.”
As police continue their investigation into the violence, a watchdog agency is conducting a parallel probe.
After fleeing the Milton auto garage on Monday, the suspect headed toward Hamilton. He was in a cemetery off Highway 403 when police shot and killed him. The province’s Special Investigations Unit, which examines all police shootings, is probing the circumstances of his death.
With a report from The Canadian Press