Toronto

Toronto officers up for Ontario's highest police honour for Danforth shooting response

Constables Volodymyr Zvezd'Onkin and Hongfei Zhou, both of Toronto police's 54 Division, confronted the gunman during a mass shooting on Danforth Avenue last summer.

Constables Volodymyr Zvezd'Onkin and Hongfei Zhou to be nominated for Ontario Medal of Police Bravery

A report by the province's Special Investigations Unit revealed that two officers confronted the gunman with their weapons drawn. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

The provincial government says it will recommend two Toronto constables for Ontario's highest police honour, citing their "heroic conduct" during a mass shooting in Greektown last summer.

"While most of Toronto froze with terror upon news a gunman had opened fire on the Danforth on July 22, 2018, the brave men and women of the Toronto Police Service raced towards danger to protect their fellow citizens," said Sylvia Jones, minister of community safety and correctional services, in a statement on Wednesday. 

"Although these heroes have had the people's gratitude since that dark summer night, they have not yet been publicly recognized for their courage or their valour," she continued.

Jones said she will write to Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders, as well as nominate Const. Volodymyr Zvezd'Onkin and Const. Hongfei Zhou for the Ontario Medal of Police Bravery. The commendation is reserved for officers who have carried out an "act of outstanding bravery in the face of grave, personal danger."

Both constables work in Toronto police's 54 Division.

According to Jones, their actions "potentially saved an untold number of lives," on that balmy evening last summer, when Faisal Hussain, 29, fired a handgun into busy restaurants and shops. Hussain's rampage killed 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis, and injured 13 others.

A probe into Hussain's death by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit revealed that Hussain first opened fire around 10 p.m., and that a pair of officers located him within six minutes of the first call to police. 

In its report, the SIU said the two officers approached Hussain with their guns drawn. Hussain turned to face them and fired multiple times. The officers "almost immediately" returned fire, according to the report. Hussain then fled the scene.

Minutes later, police officers found Hussain's lifeless body outside Danforth Church on Bowden Street, with a black Smith and Wesson handgun and two loaded magazines lying at his side. An autopsy later revealed that Hussain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. 

"In this case there is no evidence that the responding officers' actions were anything but commendable in the face of truly perilous circumstances," wrote SIU director Tony Loparco.

The report, however, did not identify the two officers.

The deadline to nominate the officers for the medal is August 31. An independent advisory council appointed by the premier reviews each nomination and selects the candidates.

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