TORONTO - Police Chief Mark Saunders said Wednesday officials have found no evidence to support the Islamic State group’s claim of responsibility for the mass shooting in Toronto that killed two people and wounded 13.
The Islamic State claimed that one of its “soldiers” carried out Sunday night’s attack in response to its calls to target citizens of the U.S-led coalition battling it. The claim appears on one of the group’s social media channels, and a security member of IS was quoted speaking to the group’s Amaq news agency.
Saunders said in a statement that all areas of the Toronto Police Service have been involved in the investigation and they have received assistance from law enforcement partners at every level.
“At this stage, we have no evidence to support these claims,” Saunders said.
Saunders said officials will continue to explore every investigative avenue, including interviews and reviewing the online activity and mental health experiences of dead gunman Faisal Hussain.
Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has also said there was no national security risk following the attack.
Hussain died after an exchange of gunfire with police. His family has said he suffered from lifelong “severe mental health challenges” including psychosis and depression and had not responded to numerous treatment approaches, including therapy and medication.
Authorities identified the 10-year-old girl who was slain as Julianna Kozis of Markham, Ontario. Toronto police released a photo of the smiling, young girl and said her family had asked for privacy during their time of grief. Police previously identified the other person killed in the shooting as 18-year-old Reese Fallon of Toronto
Kozis was involved in synchronized swimming, and her Markham Synchro Club issued a statement calling her “a beautiful, aspiring athlete.” Members of the club later attended a vigil in Toronto.
The city of Markham paid tribute to Kozis by lowering flags and opening a book of condolence. The girl’s photo and a memory book sat on a table inside Markham city hall, surrounded by delicate pink rose petals.
“Right now we need to focus on respecting the family’s wishes for privacy as they deal with a horrible loss,” Mayor Frank Scarpitti said Wednesday. “When we heard it was a 10-year-old girl from Markham, all of our hearts dropped.”
The shooting in Toronto’s Greektown neighborhood stunned people in a normally safe city, already unsettled by an attack just three months earlier when a man used a van to plow over pedestrians on a downtown sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 14 in an attack apparently aimed at women.
On Wednesday night, thousands of people marched under the “Greektown” arch hanging over the neighborhood’s main street. Parents pushed children in strollers, others brought their dogs. Folks walked past the spots where the gunman fired into restaurants, sidewalk cafes and a park. They held candles in memory of the victims.
When they stopped at a makeshift memorial near flowers and a pretty fountain, they sang “Hallelujah,” by Canadian artist Leonard Cohen. A teen from the neighborhood played guitar, another sang.
“It’s overwhelming, but in a good way,” said Tanya Wilson, a tattoo shop owner who took in two wounded people moments after Sunday’s shooting. Wilson stood near her shop and sobbed, embracing people she knew.
Small acts of kindness were everywhere. One woman reported on Twitter that when she went to buy a coffee at a Starbucks in the neighborhood, someone had already put $100 on a gift card to be used by anyone coming in after him.
“This is my community, and I just wanted to be around people,” said Angel Riccio. In the days since the tragedy, the yoga teacher has wondered what more the community could do to prevent such incidents.
The shooter had a lifelong mental illness, his family said, and city leaders want to ban handguns.
But Riccio said: “I already think we live in a great country with great values. I’m not sure what else can be done.”
Chrys Nicholas, owner of a restaurant on the main street known as The Danforth, seemed in a daze as she watched the crowd move past her business.
“It feels a little surreal. My brain feels like it’s drip feeding me information, because I can’t cope with this much intensity.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory and some city councilors had lunch Wednesday at a Greek restaurant on the street.
“This is a very tight loving neighborhood,” Tory said at the vigil.