Toronto

Lockdowns lifted at U of T as police end search for 'suspicious person' in black clothing, mask

Members of the Toronto police emergency task force have concluded their search of buildings in and around the University of Toronto for a person dressed in black, wearing a mask and carrying a black backpack after receiving multiple reports of a "suspicious person" on campus Monday morning.

Roads reopen around Queen's Park, campus given 'all-clear' after 'distressing day'

Heavily armed police combed the University of Toronto's downtown campus Monday after reports of a suspicious person who was possibly armed. (CBC)

Members of the Toronto police emergency task force have concluded their search of buildings in and around the University of Toronto for a person dressed in black, wearing a mask and carrying a black backpack after receiving multiple reports of a "suspicious person" on campus Monday morning.

Police Chief Mark Saunders said that the person, photographed by a witness, appeared to be wearing a surgical mask. 

By 3 p.m., police said the investigation had ended after finding "no threat to public safety."

Following the all-clear from police, U of T president Meric Gertler tweeted that he was relieved at the outcome of "a distressing day."

Shortly before the lockdowns lifted, a man who had been taken into custody during the search was released around 2 p.m. without charges. Saunders said earlier that arrest was unrelated to the report at the university. 
A woman gets a hug after being escorted off the U of T campus on Monday. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press)

Speaking to reporters at the scene around 11:45 a.m., Saunders said officers were using the photo taken by the witness as a reference. The photo did not come from security footage, although police were hoping surveillance video could "enhance it further."

"There are security cameras that are around," said Saunders. "We're working in conjunction with the U of T police and we're trying to put the pieces together."

Police said that a security guard at the university made the first report after seeing someone wearing a mask in a building under construction at 6 Hoskin Ave.

Dan Clifford, a university employee, told CBC News he saw a suspicious-looking character on campus about five minutes past 9 a.m. Monday morning.

"Over by the gates, I saw a man walking up by the faculty of music with a full scarf over his face," Clifford said. "You couldn't see his eyes, couldn't see his face, couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman."

No confirmation of gun

Heavily armed emergency task force officers swept through the U of T downtown campus looking for a suspect. (CBC)

Police also received another report of a person with a gun in the area, and were trying to determine whether that was a police officer or a suspicious person.

"We have not seen a picture of any firearms at this point in time," Saunders told reporters. "There have been a few people who have said they've seen a suspicious person that fits the likeness of the photo that was shown to me."

"That picture did not indicate or show a firearm," said Saunders, adding that "someone else" made the comment about seeing a gun, which is why the emergency task force was called in.

For several hours on Monday, police were trying to make contact with the person who made the initial report of seeing a gun to get a "cleaner picture" of what they saw. 

University Avenue and Queen's Park Crescent were closed from Bloor Street to Hoskin Avenue for the search for the man. Several University of Toronto buildings were also locked down until 3 p.m. as emergency task force officers methodically carried out their search. 

 

Susan Ironside was one of those evacuated from the university. She was inside the faculty of music watching the action unfold from the building's large windows.

"The scariest part was when they knocked on the door to get us out," she said. "I answered the door and the police officers were standing there with their guns drawn."

Women's College Hospital and SickKids Hospital were also put into lockdown, but both have reopened. Access to the children's hospital remains limited to the 170 Elizabeth St. entrance, however. 

The Ontario Legislature building was in a partial lockdown with guards at all doors, but staff and visitors were able to come and go with proper identification.

Trains on the Yonge-University line, which were bypassing Museum station due to the police investigation, returned to regular service around 3 p.m. Monday, the TTC said. Service on the 5 Avenue Road bus also returned to normal.

With files from Nicole Brockbank, Morgan Dunlop, Stephanie Matteis and Amara McLaughlin