'A freak coincidence:' Toronto steakhouse owner defends restaurant after second shooting in two years

The owner of the high end entertainment steakhouse Michael's on Simcoe says his staff and family are shaken after a second shooting at his restaurant in as many years. A well-known Toronto real estate broker was shot and killed inside the crowded restaurant on Saturday evening.

Staff at the restaurant say the victim thought he was being pranked before the shooting

Michael Dabic, owner of Michael's on Simcoe, where some staff have now witnessed two shootings at the restaurant. (Mehrdad Nazarahari/CBC)

After two high profile shootings in as many years, the owner of Michael's on Simcoe says his staff are shaken but the restaurant will eventually reopen "stronger than ever," and he's reassuring his clientele that it's still a safe place to eat.

Real estate broker Simon Giannini, 54, was shot while dining at the restaurant on Saturday evening and later died. Police believe the shooting was targeted but have not yet determined a motive or identified a suspect.

The restaurant's owner Michael Dabic says about 20 people were nearby the victim at time of the shooting, including his 26-year-old daughter who works at the front desk.

Dabic said his security cameras captured the entire incident, from the shooting itself to the licence plate of the alleged getaway car, a white SUV.

'Very funny,' victim said before shots rang out

One detail from the footage and eyewitness accounts stands out: the victim laughing moments before he was shot.

Dabic said Giannini saw the shooter approach and thought he was being pranked.

"[Giannini] knew it was coming and thought it was some joke," Dabic said.

Staff at Michael's on Simcoe remember him laughing and dismissively saying, "Very funny" to the shooter before he was shot, according to Dabic.

Police have identified a man who died of his injuries in hospital after a shooting inside a restaurant in the Entertainment District on Saturday evening as Simon Giannini, 54, from Toronto. (Simon Giannini/Facebook)

"My daughter was 10 feet away, so she was a wreck," said Dabic, who was not at the restaurant when the incident happened.

"My staff, some people will need therapy. My daughter will need therapy," he told reporters on Simcoe Street near Adelaide Street in front of his restaurant. "There's a few other individuals who witnessed this. They're going to need help; it's a shocking situation."

Second shooting

It isn't the first shooting to rock the high-end downtown steakhouse.

On a Sunday evening in September 2015, a pair of masked gunmen stormed the restaurant and shot two customers, who survived their injuries.

Police believe that too was a targeted incident, but say the two shootings are likely unrelated.

Security video captured the two masked gunmen involved in the 2015 shooting. (Toronto Police Service)

"I didn't think lightning could strike twice, but it did," Dabic said.

The owner of the restaurant for the past five years, he explained that shooters aren't targeting his business to carry out the crimes, but instead his high-profile clientele.

"This is a very prominent individual," Dabic said of Giannini. "We have prominent individuals that come to our restaurant."

He flatly rejected the notion that some customers might now be concerned for their safety while there.

"What I say is use some common sense," Dabic said. "It's a freak incident; it's a freak coincidence. The people that know us, they know us and they know what we're about."

He said there are plans to reopen the restaurant as early as this week.

Anyone with information about Saturday's shooting is asked to contact police at 416-808-7400, Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-TIPS (8477), online at www.222tips.com, or text TOR and a message to CRIMES (274637).

With files from Lorenda Reddekopp