Inside the Union Station evacuation on Saturday night
Anne Marie Aikins could never have expected her family’s evening in the city to be cut short by the emergency evacuation of Union Station on Saturday.
Yet after a fatal shooting near Scotiabank Arena around 8 p.m., Toronto police locked down and evacuated Union Station. Police said they located a man with gunshot wounds near York Street and Bremner Boulevard, where the man died.
Police have yet to release information on the suspects, but Toronto Police Department Inspector Paul Krawczyk told reporters Saturday night that a suspect ran south toward Lake Shore Boulevard and another in Union Station after the shooting. He added that officers believe the shooting was not random.
Metrolinx media and public relations manager Aikins said she had family from Barrie visiting the city that day. After taking her grandchildren to Medieval Times, Aikins said she and about 15 family members just got off the GO train at Union Station.
« I’m still a little overwhelmed by it, » Aikins said. « It was disconcerting, to say the least. »
She said the station was busy. The Honda Indy Toronto and a menagerie of festivals, concerts and events drew people to the downtown core, and Blue Jays fans were “bustling” after the team’s game that night.
After some relatives brought Aikins’ four-year-old grandchildren and babies home, Aikins said she took the rest of the family out for dinner while they waited for their train back to Barrie.
Aikins said his family was in Maple Leaf Square when the incident happened. At the time, they had no idea what was going on.
“I imagine the shooter could have run right past us,” Aikins said.
“(We were) just in that area. It makes my heart skip a beat thinking about it.
They met at Union Chicken, a restaurant on the lower level of the station near the York Street and Front Street exit.
Aikins said his family had « literally just sat down » when a security guard entered the restaurant and told customers they had to leave.
« People looked confused, » Aikins said.
« I could tell people were thinking ‘if I just sit here quietly they’ll just let me stay with my beer’. »
But Aikins said as soon as the guards told her the entire station was being evacuated, she realized something terrible had happened. In the ten years she worked with Metrolinx, Aikins said she can’t remember a single other time the police put the entire station on lockdown.
More than 300,000 people pass through Union Station each day on GO, VIA, UP Express and TTC trains and buses, according to the station’s website, which adds that more than 30 retailers also operate from the station. .
« It’s a very rare thing for the police to make the decision to close Union Station, » Aikins said.
« It’s the busiest transport hub in the country and it’s very difficult to shut it down. »
Aikins’ nine-year-old grandson Seamus Wicksted was still with her.
« He was pretty confused and scared, » Aikins said. « He had a lot of questions about what happened and why. »
Aikins’ grandson was not alone. She said people were confused and scared, but security managed to get people out onto York Street and then to Front Street.
“It was empty within minutes. Honestly, I don’t know how they did it,” she said.
On Front Street, Aikins said she was able to call Metrolinx’s control center and learn what had happened. About half an hour after the shooting, Aikins and his family had been safely evacuated.
It took about two hours before the station reopened, Aikins said. His family was able to take a train home late at night. TTC service began to resume around 10 p.m.
When approached by The Star for comment, a TTC spokesperson declined to comment on the incident.
Mayor John Tory said the Union Station shooting was « extremely upsetting and disturbing » in an emailed press release to The Star. The email also contained a statement about the shooting at a King West nightclub on Sunday morning that sent a man and a woman to hospital with serious injuries.
« Any gun violence in our city is unacceptable, » Tory said in the email.
« My thoughts are with those who mourn a loved one today following a shooting and the family and friends who pray for the recovery of those injured. »
He added that he would « advocate for tougher gun laws with tougher penalties. »
When The Star asked for comment, Toronto police said they couldn’t share more information about the shooting at this time.
As for Aikins, she said last night was sleepless.
« I couldn’t help but think that someone actually died, » Aikins said.
« It’s just damning enough to think about, and scary that gun violence has come to this point. »
Homicide detectives are still investigating the shooting, police said. They ask anyone with information to contact police at 416-808-2222, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.
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