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Gunman, driver sought after 2 girls shot at Toronto playground

Last Updated Jun 15, 2018 at 6:26 pm EDT

Police are searching for two suspects — one who fired the gun and the driver of a getaway car — after two sisters, aged five and nine, were were shot at an east-end Toronto playground on Thursday.

On Friday, police released images of the vehicle they believe was involved in the shooting. It is a black, four-door 2007-2011 Nissan Versa sedan.

It happened at around 5 p.m. at Alton Towers Circle, near McCowan Road and McNicoll Avenue. Police estimate there were about 11 children playing in the park at the time of the shooting and believe seven shots were fired.

The younger of the two girls was brought to hospital in critical condition, but police now say her condition has improved and her injuries are no longer life-threatening. The other girl was seriously hurt but her injuries are not life-threatening. Both are in stable condition.

A third person suffered minor injuries but was assessed at the scene and not taken to hospital.

41 Division Superintendent Mark Barkley provided an update on the investigation on Friday and confirmed they had found a car related to the investigation in Pickering at Highway 2 and Liverpool Road.

He added both the victims are currently recovering in hospital and asked for privacy for the children’s family.

Barkley said they will not be releasing anymore information so they don’t compromise the integrity of the investigation but are still encouraging anyone with information to contact police or Crime Stoppers.

When asked what his reaction to hearing that two young girls had been shocked, he said he had the same reaction any human would, “Why? How? Who? Find Them. Get them in Jail.”

Chief Mark Saunders called the shooting a “despicable act.”

“Some cowards came into this neighbourhood and opened fire into a playground,” said Saunders, who added that the children were not the intended targets.

A man who was in the park is believed to be the intended target, and police are still looking for him. They would not say whether he was related to any of the children in the park.

No suspect description is currently available, but Saunders said witnesses are cooperating and police are obtaining security video from the area.

“We are going to do anything and everything we can to restore safety in this neighbourhood,” Saunders vowed.

“This is a cowardly act. …There’s no bravery here, in fact this is absolute stupidity.”

Saunders implored the shooter to turn himself in.

“If not we will find you,” he said.

When asked if Toronto was becoming dangerous, Saunders maintained it was still safe compared to other large cities.

“When we look at our numbers, there’s not this spike; there hasn’t been,” he maintained, saying Toronto is one of the safest cities in North America.

“When we do have shooting incidents they do go in peaks and valleys across the city. It happens every single year. I’m not happy with it so I’m not here to say all is well. Anytime that someone is motivated to use a firearm, I have great concerns for that.

“Whoever would shoot a handgun in a playground, I’ve got concerns with that and so should the rest of the community.”

Mayor John Tory said he has spoken with Toronto police and said they “are doing everything possible to catch those responsible for this despicable crime.”

“I have been clear that I want no stone left unturned in dealing with this,” Tory said during a news conference Friday. “I want this shooting solved and I want the people that are involved with this brought to justice.

“Those who would fire into a playground full of kids playing with so little care don’t belong to be with us here in the society we are building…

“You will be caught,” the mayor said. “You will face the full weight of the justice system and you will not terrorize our city and our neigbhourhoods.”

Premier-designate Doug Ford also reacted to the incident in a tweet and said he is monitoring the situation.

Mark Novis, the girls’ principal at the Divine Infant Catholic School, said he visited them in hospital.

“We were in shock. We were in disbelief, at first,” he said.

“The girls belong to a beautiful family — beautiful students, beautiful girls. Very loving, very caring, very compassionate.”