2 shot, 2 arrested at Raptors rally; celebration continues
TORONTO – Two people were shot and wounded at a rally Monday for the NBA champion Raptors, and two people were arrested, police said.
Droves of Raptors fans ran from the shooting in a stampede from the City Hall square, which was packed with tens of thousands of fans.
A million or more fans earlier packed downtown Toronto for a parade for the Raptors, raising concerns about safety and overcrowding.
Toronto police spokeswoman Allison Sparkes later confirmed two people were shot and two were arrested. Two firearms were recovered.
“We have no incidents currently underway. Crowds are dispersing,” Sparkes said.
Asked if it was a targeted shooting or terrorism-related, Sparkes said the investigation was ongoing.
During a speech from one of the team owners, the host of the rally interrupted the proceedings to alert the crowd to an emergency and asked for calm.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Toronto Mayor John Tory, NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and other players were among those on stage at the time.
“I want to make sure everyone stays calm,” said the host, sportscaster Matt Devlin. “This is serious. Everyone stay calm … There is an emergency being dealt with.”
Those on stage remained in place and speeches resumed shortly after.
Mike Mudidi said he was enjoying the celebrations when he heard screams behind him that someone had pulled out a gun.
He said he froze as people started running in all directions.
“I just grabbed my buddies’ hands and ran,” he said.
Tory previously urged every city resident to come celebrate the Raptors’ first championship and declared Monday as “We The North Day,” after the franchise’s slogan.
“Toronto, more than a million of us flooded the streets today to celebrate our Raptors,” city councilman Joe Cressy tweeted.
“People of all every age, every race, every religion — our City. As awful as the shooting was and terrifying for many in the crowd afterwards, don’t let it take away from our moment.”
Some 1.5 million fans withstood packed conditions to attend the parade. Nicolas Caramanna, 21, said the crowd started to get rowdy shortly after he arrived at 9 a.m.
“I’m really hot and tired, but I’m going to stick around,” he said. “When else am I going to get a chance to do this?”
Many others chose to miss school or work. Cypher Sabanal, 15, said his mom let him skip class to attend the celebration.
John Moreira called in sick to work so he could be part of Toronto’s first celebration of this magnitude since the Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993.
“I told my boss I wanted to be at the parade and he said there wasn’t much he could do if I called in sick, so that’s exactly what I did,” the 31-year-old said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the whole team. They all work so hard and deserve all the fans being out here.”
As the parade inched forward — discernibly behind schedule — a number of Raptors could not help but marvel at the fan response.
“It’s been amazing,” Leonard said. “Thank you Toronto, thank you Canada for the support. We did it.”
Several fans were seen carrying signs imploring Leonard to re-sign with the Raptors. He will be a free agent this summer.
Kyle Lowry, the team’s longest-tenured player, hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy while his teammates smoked cigars.
“This is unbelievable,” he said. /gsg