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Police looking for three suspects after five teenagers shot in Toronto

Toronto police officers cordoned off an area around an apartment building on Clearview Heights near Trethewey Drive and Black Creek Drive on Oct. 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Cole Burston

TORONTO — Cleaners were removing large bloodstains splattered along the hallway of a Toronto residential building on Thursday following a shooting that sent five teenagers to hospital, some in critical condition.

Police said the victims — a 16-year-old girl, a 17-year-old girl and three boys between the ages of 16 and 18 — were expected to survive. One of the teens underwent surgery overnight, police said.

The group was wounded when two people opened fire in the hallway of the building in the city’s west end around 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, police said.

Investigators were searching Thursday for three suspects, who police described as men in their late teens and early 20s who were driving a dark sedan before the shooting.

Police Chief Mark Saunders said officers will be looking at video surveillance footage in the area to help identify the suspects.

“We have five who were shot, they are very young people and there is no need to for this to happen,” said Saunders, who noted the victims were targeted. “If we can solve this one, it would be a good one for the city of Toronto.”

Investigators said they found at least 20 bullet casings at the scene.

Some residents inside the building looked visibly shaken Thursday as they went about their day and skirted past the lingering signs of last night’s violence.

What appeared to be bullet holes could be seen in the building’s rear entrance and marring the hallway doors and the walls of a nearby stairwell.

Saunders and Mayor John Tory have repeatedly called for a city-wide handgun ban as Toronto grapples with a rise in shootings.

“There is the concern of retribution and so if there is going to be any type of retribution, then that would add to our count and that is something that is concerning,” said Saunders, who asked the public for tips to help the investigation. 

“So that’s why we’re making this appeal to hope that we can apprehend these people before any future gun violence happens in our city.”

In order to effectively tackle gun violence, officials need to treat it like a public health issue rather than a criminal issue, one expert on the matter said.

“If we look at it simply as a crime problem, we’re going to respond to it with Band-Aid solutions, reactive solutions, as we have been,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. 

There needs to be the political and public will to address factors such as poverty and racial discrimination, and to put in community supports that create an environment where gun violence is less likely to emerge, he said.

One of the hurdles is that funding for community programs aimed at youth is still granted for only short periods, typically three to four years, Owusu-Bempah said. As a result, those organizations are constantly struggling to remain operational, which affects their ability to build lasting relationships with the people they are supposed to serve, he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2019.

Salmaan Farooqui and Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press