Toronto

Shooting in Toronto's Annex area leaves 2 injured, SIU investigating

Moments after a man dressed as a construction worker shot a criminal defence lawyer, an undercover Halton police officer shot the suspected gunman, Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) says.

Criminal defence lawyer J. Randall Barrs shot by gunman while leaving his office

Toronto police officers cordoned off a road in the upscale Annex area on Tuesday afternoon following a shooting. Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is looking into what happened. (CBC)

Moments after a man dressed as a construction worker shot a criminal defence lawyer near his Toronto office, an undercover police officer shot the suspected gunman, Ontario's Special Investigations Unit says.

The SIU, which investigates any incident involving death or serious injury involving a police officer, is probing the shooting that took place on Bedford Road, near Prince Arthur Avenue, around 3:30 p.m. There were dozens of people in the area, near Toronto's upscale Yorkville shopping strip and the University of Toronto campus, at the time of the incident.

Two witnesses described a frightening scene as the shooting broke out.

Criminal defence lawyer J. Randall Barrs was rushed to hospital after being shot in the legs outside his office on Tuesday afternoon. (Randallbarrs.com)

A lawyer — identified by colleagues as J. Randall Barrs, a prominent criminal defence lawyer who has defended more than 20 murder cases — suffered serious injuries after being shot in the legs, SIU spokesman Jason Gennaro said. 

A plainclothes Halton Regional Police officer, one of an unspecified number of undercover officers who were in the area conducting a surveillance operation, opened fire on the suspect.

The suspected gunman, identified only as a 51-year-old man, received serious injuries and was rushed to a trauma centre for emergency surgery. The suspect had been trying to leave the scene in a silver Honda Civic before other undercover officers boxed him in

Gennaro told reporters that officers intervened in "a matter of moments."

Gennaro said the SIU believes only one officer fired a weapon, though four others have been designated as witnesses in the investigation.

It's unclear what drove the suspected gunman to shoot Barrs. Gennaro said that will be up for Toronto and Halton police to investigate.

The SIU investigation, meanwhile, will focus on the actions of the Halton police officer who opened fire.

The SIU is asking anyone who witnessed the shooting to contact them.

'It seemed almost staged'

Witness Tudor Manole said he saw an older man with scruffy white hair and a beard shoot another man, who was dressed in a suit, a "significant number of times," then flee to the Honda.

Manole said the gunman, noticing the victim was still moving, then fired again from his vehicle. He said there were some 10 shots fired.

They were firing weapons at very close range to me.- Alan Bell, shooting witness

Multiple undercover police officers then moved in, Manole said. The officers, who were heavily armed, arrested the shooter.

"It seemed almost staged," Manole said.

Witness Alan Bell was driving home and had just turned north onto Bedford Road when he heard three loud gunshots. Then, he said, two men ran past his car while shooting. He said he couldn't tell whether they were shooting at each other or someone else.

"It was a very frightening experience. They were firing weapons at very close range to me," Bell told CBC News.

Bell said he ducked and when he finally poked his head up he noticed the window of the car next to him had been shot out.

Bell said he then spotted one man limping toward Bedford Road who appeared to be shot. Paramedics arrived shortly after and began treating the man. 

Police have closed Bedford Road between Bloor Street West and Lowther Avenue for the investigation. 

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