A 48-year-old Toronto police officer was fatally shot at close range and died at the scene in an unprovoked “ambush” attack in Mississauga as part of a shooting rampage that continued into Milton and left one other person dead and three injured, police officials said Monday.
The gunman was taken into custody and pronounced dead in Hamilton. That incident is now the subject of an investigation by Ontario’s police watchdog.
“It is with profound sadness that I announce the death of Toronto Police Service Constable Andrew Hong of Traffic Services,” Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said at a news conference alongside his counterparts from Peel and Halton regions in Mississauga Monday night.
Ramer said Hong was a 22-year-veteran of the force who was also a father of two, a husband, a brother and a son. The chief said he met with the fallen officer’s family earlier today.
“I committed to his family that they will have the full support of the Toronto Police Service every day going forward,” Ramer said. “This is devastating news for his family and for all members of the Toronto Police Service and our entire policing community.”
Andrew Hong, 48, is seen in this undated photograph.
Peel Police Chief Chief Nishan Duraiappah said the officer was in Mississauga for a training exercise and was attacked while on a break in the area of Argentia Road and Winston Churchill Boulevard, at around 2:15 p.m.
“While on lunch break, he was shot in an unprovoked and may I say an ambush attack and succumbed to his injuries,” Duraiappah said. “In the same incident, a second innocent victim suffered life-altering gunshot injuries and is currently being treated at a trauma center in the GTA.”
Following the shooting, police said they were searching for a suspect described as a Black male with a thin build and black hair who was wearing all black with a yellow construction vest. They said he was armed and dangerous and that it was “imperative” that anyone who spots the suspect or his vehicle – described as a black jeep Cherokee with licence plate # CLMZ 905 – call 911 immediately.
A short time after the first shooting, Halton police said they were investigating another shooting, which occurred at an auto body shop at Main Street and Bronte Street in Milton around 2:50 p.m.
Three people were shot in that incident. Police said one of the victims was pronounced dead at the scene, while two others were transported to a regional hospital for treatment.
Police vehicles and officers are seen behind tape at a scene in Mississauga, Ont., Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. A Toronto police officer has been fatally shot and a suspect is in custody after two separate shootings left two dead and three injured in the Greater Toronto Area on Monday afternoon. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey
SUSPECT SHOT BY POLICE IN HAMILTON
Halton police said at the time they were looking for the same vehicle sought in the Mississauga shooting and that it was last seen near Appleby Line and Hwy. 407.
Police issued a public safety alert for the GTA about an active shooter following the two daylight shootings in Mississauga and Milton.
Tanner said his officers later engaged the suspect.
“Members of the Halton Regional Police Service did engage with the suspect later on this afternoon and that is now a subject of a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigation. And of course as you know, we are unable to comment on that investigation,” Tanner said.
Hamilton’s police chief said Monday evening that one person was fatally shot in a cemetery in that city in connection with the other shootings.
The SIU, which probes all incidents where police are involved in a death or serious injury, confirmed that they were notified of a police-involved shooting on York Boulevard in Hamilton involving a Halton police officer and that they have invoked their mandate.
In a statement, the SIU said Hamilton and Halton officers located the suspect at around 4:30 p.m.
“There was an interaction and officers shot the man in Mount Hamilton Cemetery near York Boulevard,” the SIU said.
Paramedics were called but the man died at the scene.
The SIU has assigned seven investigators and two forensic investigators to the case.
Peel police rescinded the active shooter alert at around 5:30 p.m.
“I just wanted to let the public know because I know when we issued the alert, that it frightens the public but as of right now, I can tell you that there is no threat to public safety, and we are in the process of retracting that provincial alert,” Peel police Const. Heather Cannon told reporters.
There is no word yet as to what motivated to the shootings and the gunman has not been identified.
Police respond to a shooting in Milton, Ont. on Sept. 12, 2022.
‘A GENTLE GIANT’
There was a heavy police presence visible around the Tim Hortons location at the Mississauga scene Monday afternoon and officers could be seen consoling one another. Forensic officers could also be seen coming and going from the restaurant.
Jon Reid, the president of the Toronto Police Association (TPA) – the union which represents Toronto police officers – also spoke Monday night and said Hong’s death is a reminder of the danger officers face each day and some make “the ultimate sacrifice.”
“Losing a member in the line of duty has rippling effects across our membership and across the broader policing community in our city,” Reid said. “The TPA will work with the service to provide whatever support Andrew’s family and friends, colleagues require during this process.
“Policing is an honorable profession. It’s a heroic profession. Our members go to work each and every day in service to others, often putting themselves in harm’s way.”
Police officers embrace at the scene of a shooting in Mississauga, Ont., Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey
Toronto Mayor John Tory told CP24 he had an opportunity to interact with Hong during the pandemic when extra security was needed at times and called him a “gentle giant of a man.” He said that “everybody who met him liked him.”
“When you see tears streaming down the faces of colleagues, as I saw tonight from especially his traffic and motorcycle colleagues, you know this is someone who is beloved by them,” Tory said. “And it isn’t just one more of them that lost his life in a tragic way, he was somebody that meant a lot to them.”
Officers lined the street and saluted as Hong’s body was driven away from the area Monday night and officers could be seen consoling one another.
The violent shooting spree shook many in the GTA, including one mother whose son attends a daycare close to the scene in Milton. The woman told CTV News Toronto that the centre went into lockdown because of the shooting.
“The owner of the centre had called me and told me that there was an active shooter a couple doors down,” the woman said, becoming emotional. “Very, very upsetting. Pretty emotional, actually thinking about it, because they don’t really understand what could be happening with the police and such. So very upsetting, but thank god he was okay and they kept them safe, and I was able to come down and get him.”
In a statement released Monday evening, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie thanked first responders and said she is in shock.
“Like many residents across Mississauga, Toronto and Milton, I am in utter shock and devastated in light of today’s deadly gun attacks that claimed several lives and others in life-threatening condition,” Crombie said in a statement. “In the wake of this tragedy, I want to offer my deepest condolences to the families and loved ones who lost their lives in this unimaginable tragedy.”
Premier Doug Ford called the shootings “senseless.”
“Like all Ontarians, I’m horrified by today’s senseless violence, including the killing of a Toronto police officer,” Ford said in a tweet. “I’m so grateful to law enforcement for bringing this situation to an end. May justice for those killed and injured be swift.”
Ramer vowed that he will work closely with Duraiappah “to determine what exactly happened.”
The light of the Toronto sign were dimmed at city hall Monday night to pay respect to Hong.