Toronto man with cache of guns arrested in 'unprovoked' killings of man, international student
Richard Jonathan Edwin, 39, charged with 2 counts of 1st-degree murder
Toronto police have arrested a man accused of two separate "unprovoked" killings of a 21-year-old international student and 35-year-old man.
Richard Jonathan Edwin, 39, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Kartik Vasudev and Elijah Eleazar Mahepath.
Police say Edwin was arrested Sunday evening and had a cache of loaded guns within reach at the time of his arrest.
"Any death is tragic, but these men were completely innocent, and their murders were absolutely random acts of violence," Police Chief James Ramer told reporters Tuesday.
Vasudev, a 21-year-old international student from India, was gunned down at Sherbourne subway station on April 7 around 5 p.m. He was transported to hospital with multiple gunshot wounds, where he later died.
Two days later, Mahepath was shot several times near the intersection of Dundas Street East and George Street, east of Jarvis Street, just before 7 p.m. He also died in hospital hours later.
Police believe Edwin was a "complete stranger" to both men. Ramer also said the victims were not known to each other.
Edwin had no prior criminal record and was "lawfully" in possession of his guns, police said.
Ramer said he believes there could have been more killings had the suspect not been caught.
"When, I don't know, but he had an arsenal at home," Ramer said. "Frankly, I believe this might have just been a first step."
"Police are doing a "very deep dive" into Edwin's background to find out more about "who this person is, where he's been, who he's been associating with," Det. Sgt. Terry Browne said.
Browne added that both victims were people of colour, but would not speculate on whether they were targeted based on their background or ethnicity.
"We just don't have that information," he said. "But certainly from what we saw, any interaction with the shooter and the victims was very, very quick and brief, and we can't say with certainty whether in fact, he would have been able to see their ethnicity."
Vasudev and Mahepath were the city's 19th and 20th homicides of the year.
Neighbours recount arrest
Based on the "nature of the offences," Browne said police were able to connect the two homicides to one another "very quickly."
Ramer says an "all-out effort" was launched to track the suspect, with the help of the Toronto police's Emergency Task Force. Edwin was found and arrested in a building near Bloor Street West and Spadina Avenue on Sunday evening.
Investigators say they seized several firearms, including handguns, rifles, loaded magazines, and other ammunition.
Neighbours of Edwin say they were shocked by his arrest — and to learn of the charges against him
"He seemed like a nice guy, I would talk to him and he would always say, 'Hey,' to me," said Benjamin Hannah, who lives in the same building as Edwin.
Hannah was working by his window when the arrest happened, and recalls seeing officers arrive and then hearing loud noises in the basement.
"It was like something out of a movie," he said.
Lily Whittle, who also lives in the building, says she was on her way to get groceries during the arrest. She says she heard a police officer yell, 'Get on the ground.'"
Since Edwin's arrest, she says officers have been stationed at the building and along the street.
"I'm glad that they got everything handled," Whittle said.
Loved ones describe Vasudev as 'polite, gentle'
Ramer said he hopes the arrest will provide a "sliver of closure" for the families of the victims.
Vasudev's father, Jitesh Vasudev, said in an interview from India that the family is devastated.
"Anyone who knows him, he was very polite, gentle, a brilliant student," Jitesh told CBC Toronto on Tuesday.
Vasudev said goodbye to his father, mother and 16-year-old brother earlier this year to pursue his studies in Canada. He arrived in Toronto on Jan. 5 after years of planning his career and a new life here.
He was in the first semester of business management at Seneca College and was heading to his part-time job when he was killed.
"I sent my child over there for his studies, and within three months, somebody randomly just shot him," the victim's father said.
Family 'grateful' for arrest
Family, friends and coworkers of Vasudev gathered for a vigil at Nathan Phillips Square over the weekend, remembering him as a bright and ambitious student.
Police said they also spoke with the victim's family, who are "grateful" for the arrest.
Despite the development, Jitesh said he's still searching for answers.
"I just close my eyes and imagine that scene and what happened to my child," Jitesh said through tears.
The family's grief, he said, has been made worse by the fact that the shooting happened "thousands of miles" away.
"We thought [Canada] was a safe country," the victim's mother, Pooja Vasudev, said.
"Now, if someone asks me, I won't tell them that Canada is a safe country," Jitesh added.
Now, the couple is left waiting for their son's body to arrive in India on Saturday.
Police didn't provide many details on Mahepath on Tuesday, except to say that loved ones describe him as a "happy-go-lucky" person.
Police said he was just running errands when he was randomly attacked.
"His family is devastated," Browne said.
With files from Chris Glover and The Canadian Press