Man arrested for allegedly threatening to shoot Toronto mayoral candidates
Posted June 1, 2023 3:39 pm.
Last Updated June 2, 2023 9:30 am.
A 29-year-old man is in custody after allegedly threatening to shoot mayoral candidates, which prompted a debate to be cancelled Thursday night and leading some of the contenders to pause their campaigns.
Toronto police searched for a man they considered armed and dangerous for most of the day after he allegedly entered an institution in the Mortimer Avenue and Memorial Park Avenue area around 10:45 a.m. and threatened to shoot mayoral candidates.
Police said it was a “blanket threat” not naming any specific candidate. The man also reportedly brandished what appeared to be a firearm.
A debate between candidates scheduled to be held at the Ontario College of Art & Design University (OCAD) was later cancelled as police continued to search for the suspect.
Just after 10:30 p.m. Thursday, police said 29-year-old Junior Francois Lavagesse of Toronto had been arrested in connection with the incident. He has been charged with two counts of weapons dangerous, carrying a concealed weapon, uttering threats and failing to comply with recognizance.
He was scheduled to appear in court on Friday morning.
Mayoral candidates speak after threats received
City councillor Brad Bradford confirmed that he was among several mayoral candidates who received a death threat on Thursday, which prompted the decision to cancel the debate.
“My family and campaign team are safe,” Bradford wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Thank you to the security team at City Hall and Toronto police who are keeping everyone safe.”
Bradford added he planned on pausing campaign events “until the suspect is apprehended.”
Councillor Josh Matlow said his team closed their campaign office as a result of the threat.
Sadly, there has been a serious threat made toward candidates running in the mayoral election. We have closed our campaign office until the police advise that the suspect has been apprehended. I have also told the organizers of tonight’s debate that we will not be attending…
— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) June 1, 2023
Olivia Chow appeared in East York earlier on Thursday as part of her campaign stop. A police spokesperson noted that the location where the man made the alleged threats was unrelated to Chow’s public appearance.
“Earlier today, we were made aware of a verbal threat made against Toronto mayoral candidates,” Chow said in a statement.
“Moments like these can be unsettling for people involved in the election. Like you, we are still learning more, and I want to assure you that my family, my campaign team and volunteers are safe.”
Mitzie Hunter also touched on the decision to cancel the debate, praising the excellent work of Toronto police.
In a statement Thursday evening, candidate Ana Bailão said she had been made aware of the threats.
“Police were clear I could continue going about my day,” she said. “I will continue all my campaign activities because I will never be intimidated as a candidate or as your mayor.”
Thursday’s debate was co-organized by the North Toronto Residents’ Association and the Federation of South Toronto Residents’ Association.
“It is a gut punch to the 14 to 18 individuals who have been planning this since the beginning of April,” said Don Young, co-chair of the event steering committee.
With files from The Canadian Press