A man shot dead by police after reports of a person with a rifle forced several schools into lockdown in Toronto Thursday in fact had a pellet gun, Ontario’s police watchdog says.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) also says the man was 27.
The watchdog agency said Friday that police were called to the scene just before 1 pm and located the man about 20 minutes later.
He was pronounced dead at about 1:40 pm
Toronto Police Chief James Ramer said officers were called to the Port Union area of Scarborough for reports of a person with a gun.
At a news conference late Thursday afternoon, Ramer said officers were “confronted” by the man. Ramer declined to provide further details, citing the SIU’s investigation.
Unclear if man was holding weapon when located
Investigators won’t say whether the man pointed his weapon at officers or if he spoke of any plan to target a school.
It also remains unclear what happened once police confronted the 27-year-old.
On Friday morning, the SIU confirmed to CBC News that a pellet gun was recovered at the scene. It’s unclear if the man was holding the weapon when police located him.
SIU spokesperson Kristy Denette said preliminary details indicate two police officers fired their weapons at the suspect.
“The investigation is ongoing to determine the circumstances that led to police shooting the man,” Denette said.
The agency says it has assigned four investigators and three forensic investigators to the case.
The man’s family has been identified, but Denette says his name is not being released because they have not given consent.
A post-mortem examination is scheduled for tomorrow, the SIU says.
A spokeswoman for Toronto police did not say why the force hadn’t mentioned the pellet gun in its earlier statements.
Students realized lockdown wasn’t a drill
Thursday’s incident comes just two days after a gunman entered a Texas elementary school classroom and killed 19 children and two teachers.
The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) said four schools near Maberley and Oxhorn Road were temporarily on lockdown due to the police investigation in the area.
TDSB and Ryan Bird said Friday there is heightened worry about the potential for school shootings following the death of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday.
“I think when you had the incident yesterday, with the background of what happened in Texas earlier in the week, it’s certainly that much more concerning for parents, families, staff, students,” said Bird.
“There was no known direct threat to the school but we have to take these things seriously.”
Bird said support services staff have been made available to all students and staff at all four schools.
Police said after the shooting that there was no wider threat to public safety, but that officers would be stepping up patrols in the area.
One student at William G. Davis Junior Public School said she realized the lockdown wasn’t a drill when it lasted longer than 20 minutes.
“There was a mass shooting in Texas and that was really sad, so knowing about this person that is armed, it [felt] like they were going to shoot the school and I was feeling really tense,” said Grade 5 student Inaaya Zaman.
“It felt scary,” agreed fellow student Anela Limanosk.
Toronto public schools carry out at least two lockdown drills every year. Some schools are scheduling one for next week.