TORONTO - A residential street in Toronto's east end turned into a sea of panic late Monday after a dispute between revellers at a crowded outdoor party escalated into a reckless exchange of bullets which killed two young people.
City police described the shootout, which involved multiple guns, as an "unprecedented" episode of violence.
At least 19 other people, including an infant, were hurt after shots ripped through a crowd of more than 200 people who had gathered for an outdoor barbecue on a sultry summer night.
"Tonight's event, I think, is shocking to every Torontonian. I think it will be shocking to all of Canada," Police Chief Bill Blair said from the scene of the crime. "The level of violence is something we have never experienced."
Police made multiple appeals for witnesses to contact them as they began to pull together descriptions for what appeared to be a number of different shooters.
They said they had one injured "person of interest" in custody and were looking for other suspects.
A number of area residents took to social media in the aftermath of the gunfire to express their shock at the violence.
"I'm praying for the people out there, now I'm hearing my family got shot," said one woman. "I just seen a 19 year old die. Honestly things just need to be peaceful."
Another young woman posted about 17 ambulances gathering outside her building and expressed her concern at the state of the neighbourhood.
"I see rum and beer on the ground and there is blood on my foot," she wrote. "(They) were spraying bullets at random people in my neighbourhood."
The incident took place before 11 p.m. on Danzig St., near Morningside Ave., and Lawrence Ave. East. The area was packed with police cars and emergency response vehicles late Monday night as crews ferried away the injured on stretchers and treated others on buses brought in as mobile clinics.
Some people shed tears as they spoke with officers while others watched crews work from behind a police perimeter.
"An altercation broke out among some individuals and there was an exchange of gunfire. During that gunfire a number of innocent bystanders were struck," said Blair. "It's a very shocking event, a lot of people were injured."
The two killed in the shooting were a teenage girl and a man in his 20s, who officials had not named.
The infant injured in the melee did not suffer life-threatening and was in stable condition, Blair said.
Others hurt in the incident suffered a mix of gunshot wounds and injuries from the mass panic that ensued.
"This is a tremendously frightening and tragic event for everyone," said a grim-faced Blair, who called the incident an episode of "senseless violence."
A variety of Toronto police divisions were called in to assist with the investigation, including the city's Guns and Gangs unit and the homicide squad.
While Blair said police were following up on a number of leads, he would not say if gangs were involved.
"We have a great deal of work to do," he said. "It demands our full effort to bring the persons responsible for this to justice."
In a statement issued early Tuesday, Mayor Rob Ford said he is "shocked and disgusted by this senseless act of violence."
"While we try to understand this tragic event, I want to assure residents that this horrific, criminal behaviour will not be tolerated in our city," said Ford.
Monday night's shooting came just weeks after a gunman opened fire in a crowded food court at Toronto's Eaton Centre. One man was killed instantly, another died of his injuries days later and several bystanders were sent to hospital.