Seeking Answers to Tragedy | The star
Eight girls, ages 13 to 16, charged with the murder of a man in Toronto. In Vaughan, a 73-year-old man harboring a bitter grudge goes on a rampage through his condo building, killing five people before being shot dead by police.
What connects the crimes is our collective sense of shock and misunderstanding – the allegations against girls in particular.
In the case of the Toronto attack, police said the girls, living across the city, connected on social media. « We don’t know how or why they met that night, » Det. sergeant. Terry Browne of the Toronto Police Service told reporters.
The victim – who has yet to be named as police search for his next of kin – was a 59-year-old man who lived in shelters after recently having « bad luck », Browne said. He was attacked in what Browne described as a « swarming » type incident and was stabbed.
What was the motive? Flight? To what end? Living in shelters and on the streets, he was in a vulnerable situation, a reality experienced by a growing number of people who lack safe housing in this city. They are at the mercy of the weather and more likely to be victims of crime.
Three of the girls are 13, three are 14 and two are 16. All are charged with second degree murder. This is a hard fact to digest. They will spend Christmas behind bars, awaiting their next court appearance.
The murders in Vaughan were not random and, tragically, not entirely unpredictable. Francesco Villi had been at war with his board members for years, to the point that they had restraining orders against him. Even his family described him as dominant and abusive.
The victims have been identified as three board members of Bellaria Residences and two family members.
It’s yet another tragic story of a violent man who can’t seem to be stopped. There are questions that the families of the victims and the wider community need answers to.
Villi has defied all attempts to end his aggressive and threatening harassment of board members and condo staff that has spanned years. A hearing was scheduled for Monday with a request that he be forced to sell his condo and move out. Could the courts have acted more quickly or more forcefully in the face of the mountain of serious complaints?
Was Villi’s semi-automatic handgun legally obtained? If so, when and why didn’t his long legal battle – which left a paper trail of his erratic and disturbing behavior – raise red flags?
A former board member observed that Villi needed help. But was help available? Like the attacks on the transit system, this raises the question of the availability of mental health assistance.
Jack Rozdilsky studies mass shootings as part of his work as an associate professor of disaster and emergency management at York University. He lives in the condo building and has captured the feeling of disbelief of having a tragedy unfold on his doorstep.
« In the days after being exposed to a mass shooting, it’s hard to pin down my thoughts while living in the environment of a mass shooting crime scene, » he wrote in an article for The Conversation.
As we emerged from pandemic restrictions this year, we longed for normalcy to return – travelling, dining out, meeting friends. Yet this normalcy has been challenged by events that test our sense of safety and security.
In the space of just over a month, three officers – one from Toronto and two from South Simcoe Police – have been killed on the job. Earlier this month, Vanessa Kurpiewska died after being stabbed on the subway and another subway passenger injured. In another incident, a subway passenger was pushed off a platform.
We know that events in life can be random, tragedies are desperately, heartbreakingly so. We are witnessing deadly natural disasters such as floods, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes.
These two tragedies are however the work of individuals. Confusing and disturbing, they may well have been avoided, lessons that investigations will hopefully provide.