Jubilation has turned to panic at the parade celebrating the Toronto Raptors’ history-making NBA win, after a shooting caused a stampede among the crowd of up to two million people.
Four people were injured in the shooting, which happened less than a block from where Raptors players and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were on stage for the mass celebration.
Toronto police said three people were arrested and two guns were recovered at shooting scene. None of those hurt suffered life-threatening injuries.
But a bigger disaster was averted after droves of Raptors fans fled the shooting from the City Hall square, which was packed with tens of thousands of people on Monday (Canadian time).
Earlier in the day, up to two million fans packed downtown Toronto for the parade, raising concerns about safety and overcrowding as the city celebrated its first major sports title in more than a quarter-century.
The crowd was reportedly so thick that the start of the parade was delayed by half an hour. Eager fans had even camped out near city hall 24 hours earlier, to try to guarantee a good viewing spot.
Police chief Mark Saunders said some people suffered minor injuries as they fled the shooting. He asked for witnesses and people who might have video to come forward and help investigators.
Andrew Singh said he heard what appeared to be gunshots and that a woman was wounded before people started scrambling.
“We just saw the girl drop to the floor and the guy running off,” Mr Singh said. “All I heard was, ‘bop bop bop’.”
Nathan Phillip's Square
-4 victims located
-None of the injuries are life threatening
-3 people arrested
-2 firearms recovered
-Investigators wish any video to assist in investigation
-Please use portal: https://t.co/NGv3aZdlDO
— Toronto Police OPS (@TPSOperations) June 17, 2019
Police spokeswoman Allison Sparkes said the investigation was ongoing and it was too early to say if it was a targeted shooting or terrorism-related.
The shooting came during a speech from one of the team’s owners. The host of the rally interrupted the speech to alert the crowd to an emergency, asking for calm.
Mr Trudeau, Toronto Mayor John Tory, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and other players were among those on stage at the time. They remained there, and speeches resumed shortly after.
Mike Mudidi said he was enjoying the celebration when he heard screams behind him that someone had pulled out a gun.
“I just grabbed my buddies’ hands and ran,” he said.
BREAKING: At least 2 people reportedly been shot, 2 other people in custody and 2 firearms recovered by police following a shooting at the Toronto Raptors victory parade. Several others reportedly injured due to stampede: pic.twitter.com/k9F4rio5mh
— Live Report (@tweetlivereport) June 17, 2019
Raptors fan Sam Sunday said the charge of people in the huge crowd was scary.
“When you see a bunch of people coming at you, you don’t know what to do, whether to run or not. You don’t want to get stampeded over,” he said.
Councillor Tory thanked police for their quick response and said he was angered by the shooting.
“I hope those found responsible will be held to account to the full extent that the law permits,” he said.
“I want to commend and thank the millions of other people who happily and peacefully celebrated our beloved Toronto Raptors.”
As the parade inched forward, some of the Raptors could not help but marvel at the fan response.
“It’s been amazing,” Leonard said. “Thank you Toronto, thank you Canada for the support. We did it.”
Several fans were seen carrying signs imploring Leonard to re-sign with the Raptors. He will be a free agent this summer.
Kyle Lowry, the team’s longest-tenured player, hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy while his teammates smoked cigars.
“This is unbelievable,” he said.