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No charges after driver mounts sidewalk, killing woman

CityNews | posted Wednesday, Jun 15th, 2016

A woman is dead after being struck by a vehicle near the waterfront on Tuesday.

The driver mounted the curb at Bremner Boulevard and Spadina Avenue just after 2 p.m., striking several food stands on the sidewalk.

The woman was a vendor at one of the stands. She was 38. Her 35-year-old relative, also a vendor, was injured.

Toronto police said Wednesday morning that no charges had been laid, and the investigation is still ongoing.

A Mercedes SUV was travelling on Bremner and the driver was  trying to get into the right-hand turning lane to Spadina when the vehicle went straight up the sidewalk.

Police said a 48-year-old woman was driving the vehicle and has been taken to hospital for shock.

Bremner and Navy Wharf Court were closed in both directions.

A woman was struck and killed by a vehicle near Bremner Boulevard and Spadina Avenue on June 14, 2016. Photo by Ryan Kelly
A woman was struck and killed by a vehicle near Bremner Boulevard and Spadina Avenue on June 14, 2016. Photo by Ryan Kelly

Orlando mourns as possible motives emerge for club gunman

Jason Dearen and Terrance Harris, The Associated Press | posted Tuesday, Jun 14th, 2016

As thousands in Orlando turned out to mourn 49 people killed inside a gay nightclub, federal investigators examined possible motives for the gunman who committed the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

The White House and the FBI said 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American born Muslim, appears to be a “homegrown extremist” who had touted support not just for the Islamic State, but other radical groups that are its enemies.

“So far, we see no indication that this was a plot directed from outside the United States, and we see no indication that he was part of any kind of network,” FBI Director James Comey said Monday. He said Mateen was clearly “radicalized,” at least in part via the internet.

Despite Mateen’s pledge of support to the Islamic State, other possible explanations emerged. His ex-wife said he suffered from mental illness. There were questions emerging if he was conflicted about his own sexuality. And his Afghan-immigrant father suggested he may have acted out of anti-gay hatred. He said his son got angry recently about seeing two men kiss.

Meanwhile, thousands gathered Monday night in downtown Orlando for a vigil to support the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The names of the dead were read aloud. It was held on the lawn of Orlando’s main performing arts venue, where mourners created a makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and notes for the victims.

Many in the crowd said they felt compelled to attend the vigil because of the important role Pulse played in their lives.

“It was a place that a young 20-year-old who wasn’t openly gay felt safe for the first time,” said Cathleen Daus, now 36, who had worked at Pulse in her twenties. “Pulse gave me confidence, made me realize I was normal and so much like everyone else.”

Some, like Jason Primar, who lost two friends in the massacre, released balloons that flew high above the downtown skyscrapers.

Primar went to the club at 2 a.m. Sunday, hoping to have a good time with friends. Instead, he was greeted with gunshots and the anxiety of worrying about his two friends inside.

“I felt like I was over in Iraq,” he said.

He called his two friends inside and they never answered. He later discovered they died.

Comey said the FBI was also trying to determine whether Mateen had recently scouted Disney World as a potential target, as reported by People.com, which cited an unidentified federal law enforcement source.

“We’re still working through that,” Comey said.

The FBI chief defended the bureau’s handling of Mateen during two previous investigations into his apparent terrorist sympathies. As for whether there was anything the FBI should have done differently, “so far, the honest answer is, I don’t think so,” Comey said.

The Orlando Sentinel and other news organizations quoted regular customers at the gay bar as saying they had seen Mateen there a number of times.

“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” said Ty Smith. Smith said he saw the killer inside at least a dozen times.

Jim Van Horn, 71, said he was a frequent patron at Pulse and said another “regular” there was Mateen.

“He was trying to pick up people. Men,” Van Horn told The Associated Press late Monday outside the Parliament House, another gay club.

Van Horn said he met Mateen once. He said the younger man was telling him about his ex-wife.

“My friends came out from the back and said, ‘Let’s go take pictures on the patio,’” Van Horn said. “So I left. And then they told me they didn’t want me talking to him, because they thought he was a strange person.”

Related stories:

Orlando shooter Omar Mateen wanted to be a police officer, ex-wife says

Toronto to dedicate Pride Parade to victims of Orlando shooting

Canadian officials, Obama offer condemnation and sympathy after mass shooting

Wielding an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a handgun, Mateen opened fire at Pulse Orlando early Sunday in a three-hour shooting rampage and hostage siege that ended with a SWAT team killing him. During the attack, he called 911 to profess allegiance to the Islamic State group.

At the White House, President Barack Obama said there is no clear evidence so far that Mateen was directed by the group, calling the attack an apparent example of “homegrown extremism.” Obama is travelling to Orlando Thursday to pay respect to the victims and stand in solidarity with the community, the White House said Monday evening.

More details of the bloodbath emerged, with Orlando Police Chief John Mina saying Mateen was “cool and calm” during phone calls with police negotiators. But the chief said he decided to send the SWAT team in and bash through a wall after Mateen holed up with hostages in a bathroom and began to talk about bombs and an explosive vest.

“We knew there would be an imminent loss of life,” Mina said. As it turned out, Mateen had no explosives with him.

In Orlando, mourners piled bouquets around a makeshift memorial, and people broke down in tears and held their hands to their faces while passing through the growing collection of flowers, candles and signs about a mile from the site of the massacre.

“We will not be defined by the act of a cowardly hater,” vowed Mayor Buddy Dyer, whose city of a quarter-million people is known around the globe as the home of Walt Disney World and other theme parks.

The tragedy hit the city’s gay and Hispanic communities especially hard. It was Latino Night at the club when the attack occurred.

“As the names come out, they are overwhelmingly Latino and Hispanic names,” said Christina Hernandez, a Hispanic activist. “These were not just victims of the LBGT community, but of the Hispanic community, as well. This was senseless bloodshed.”

Five of the wounded were reported in grave condition, meaning the death toll could rise and a call has gone out for blood donations.

Mateen’s grasp of the differences between Islamic extremist groups appeared shaky.

During three calls with 911 dispatchers, Mateen not only professed allegiance to the Islamic State but also expressed solidarity with a suicide bomber from the Syrian rebel group Nusra Front, and a few years ago he claimed connections to Hezbollah, too – both ISIS enemies, according to Comey.

The FBI became aware of Mateen in 2013 when co-workers reported that the private security guard claimed to have family connections to al-Qaida and to be a member of Hezbollah, too, Comey said. He was also quoted as saying he hoped law enforcement would raid his apartment and assault his wife and child so that he could martyr himself.

The FBI launched a 10-month preliminary investigation, following Mateen, reviewing his communications and questioning him, the FBI chief said. Mateen claimed he made the remarks in anger because co-workers were teasing him and discriminating against him as a Muslim, and the FBI eventually closed the case, Comey said.

His name surfaced again as part of another investigation into the Nusra Front bomber. The FBI found Mateen and the man had attended the same mosque and knew each other casually, but the investigation turned up “no ties of any consequence,” Comey said.

Mateen was added to a terror watch list in 2013 when he was investigated, but was taken off it soon after the matter was closed, according to Comey.

People who are in that database are not automatically barred from buying guns, and in any case Mateen purchased his weapons in June, long after he was removed from the list.

The Islamic State’s radio hailed the attack and called Mateen “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America.” But it gave no indication the group planned or knew of the attack beforehand.

Counterterrorism experts have been warning in the past few years about the danger of so-called lone wolf attackers who act in sympathy with extremist groups like the Islamic State but are not directed by them.

Mateen’s father, Seddique Mir Mateen, told reporters that the massacre was “the act of a terrorist,” and added: “I apologize for what my son did. I am as sad and mad as you guys are.”

He wouldn’t go into details about any religious or political views his son held, saying he didn’t know. Asked whether he missed his son, he said: “I don’t miss anything about him. What he did was against humanity.”

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington, Allen Breed, Mike Schneider and Tamara Lush in Orlando and photographers Chris O’Meara in Orlando and Alan Diaz in Fort Pierce, Florida, contributed to this report.

Tory downtown Tuesday to monitor police at intersections

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jun 14th, 2016

Mayor John Tory will be downtown on Tuesday to monitor how well his new traffic plan is going, which means watching the police officers who are now tasked with directing traffic at eight intersections around Toronto.

Tory will be at Front Street and University Avenue.

Having police officers direct traffic is part of a pilot project that hopes to improve pedestrian safety and traffic flow. Officers will be working as “traffic assistant personnel,” or TAP, and “smart” traffic signals will also be used to help direct traffic flow.

The pilot project will take place over the next four weeks, and for four weeks in the fall.

Police officers will be deployed during peak periods at the following intersections:

  • Bay Street and Queen Street
  • Front Street and Simcoe Street
  • Lake Shore Boulevard and Parklawn Road
  • Sheppard Avenue and Yonge Street
  • Front Street and University Avenue
  • Bay Street and Bloor Street
  • University Avenue and Adelaide Street
  • Bay Street from Bloor Street to Front Street

City’s road safety plans targets key intersections, school zones

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jun 14th, 2016

The city has unveiled its plan to make Toronto’s roads safer, including initiatives to lower speed limits and increase speeding fines in school zones.

The idea, spearheaded by Coun. Jaye Robinson, is to target specific high-collision intersections and corridors in the Toronto area and take the appropriate action to reduce accidents.

The plan would be to take action based on the specific needs of the intersection rather than implementing a “one-size-fits-all” solution.

According to the proposal, the city would also authorize a number of initiatives, including:

  • Expanding the “Watch Your Speed” program of permanent speed display signs in school zones
  • Implementing a mobile automated speed enforcement pilot project
  • Doubling fines for speeding and other infractions in school zones
  • Approving a reduction in the posted speed limit in a number of key locations
  • Requesting Police Chief Mark Saunders submit a report to the Toronto Police Services board supporting the enforcement of the initiatives.

The plan would cost the city about $68.1 million over five years, including $35.4 million in new capital funding and $4.5 million in additional operating funding.

The public works and infrastructure committee will debate the plan on June 20.

According to city statistics, there are 2,142 pedestrian collisions and 1,235 cyclist collisions in Toronto each year. An average of 27 pedestrians are killed each year on Toronto roads. So far there have been 16 pedestrian deaths in 2016.

Toronto to dedicate Pride Parade to victims of Orlando shooting

CityNews | posted Tuesday, Jun 14th, 2016

Toronto will dedicate its upcoming Pride Parade to the victims of the Orlando shooting, the executive director of Pride Toronto said on Monday morning.

They will also be increasing their own security measures, a decision the board made hours after the fatal shooting.

Around 2 a.m. on Sunday, a gunman opened fire at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It was Latin night at the gay club. Fifty people, including the gunman, were killed. Officials have identified 49 of the 50 victims.The list of names can be seen here.

“The board decided to dedicate the parade to the victims, we’ll have a minute of silence, we’ll read all their names … even if I never met them, they are my family,” Mathieu Chantelois told CityNews.

“We have a meeting with the RCMP, obviously we’re going to talk about security,” Chantelois added.

“At the same time, we already have a very robust security plan in place … we need to make it as safe a space as possible. ”

He said that queer or queer-friendly clubs and bars are one of the few safe spaces for the LGBTQIA community.

“If you’re queer, it’s the only place where you can actually be fully yourself. You don’t have to think about the fact that you’re holding the hand of your partner or you’re kissing somebody. Dancing will be an act of activism,” Chantelois said.

“We will think about the victims in everything that we do.”

Lights from police vehicles light up the scene in front of the Pulse club in Orlando, Florida after a fatal shooting on June 12, 2016. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/Mandel Ngan
Lights from police vehicles light up the scene in front of the Pulse club in Orlando, Florida after a fatal shooting on June 12, 2016. GETTY IMAGES/AFP/Mandel Ngan

What happened:

Police say Omar Mateen, equipped with an assault rifle and a handgun, opened fire on patrons early Sunday. He also exchanged fire with an officer working at the club about 2 a.m., when more than 300 people were inside.

“One police officer was already at the nightclub when the shooting began, then additional officers responded,” Orlando police chief John Mina said on Monday morning.

At that point, Mina said, the shooter stopped shooting and retreated to bathroom with hostages. Police rescued dozens and dozens of people and got them out of the club, Mina said, but there will still more inside.

Police used an armoured vehicle to punch a hole in the wall around 5 a.m. and rescued “dozens and dozens” more people from bathroom. The suspect came out that hole himself and “engaged in gun battle with officers where he was ultimately killed,” Mina said.

“All the officers acted heroically, and courageously, and saved many, many lives.”

The response:

On Monday morning, city and state officials said Orlando would come back from this tragedy.

“We will not be defined by the act of a cowardly hater. We will be defined by how we respond and how we treat each other,” Orlando mayor Buddy Dyer said.

Governor Rick Scott said, “this is a wonderful community we live in. This is a wonderful state we live in. We are the best melting pot in the world. It’s a wonderful place to both live and visit. … right now it’s time to grieve for each family member that lost a loved one, or has somebody in hospital.”

Before the shooting, Mateen professed allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. However, his father said Mateen was not a devout Muslim, and had become angry when he saw two men kissing.

In a statement, the Canadian Muslim community condemned the shooting.

“We are deeply saddened to learn of the devastating shooting that took place in Orlando,” Lal Khan Malik, national president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Canada, said in a statement.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the victims’ families, friends and loved ones. We are grieving with our American brothers and sisters during this tragic loss.”

President Barack Obama said Sunday the nightclub shooting in Orlando was an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.” Speaking from the White House, Obama said the United States has to decide if that is the “country we want to be.” He said that doing nothing is a decision as well.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered Canada’s condolences to the victims. “We grieve with our friends in the US & stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ2 community after today’s terror attack.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is openly gay, wrote on Twitter: “Shocked and heartbroken by the news of the #Orlando terrorist attack. Our thoughts are with the entire #LGBTQ2S community.”

From the U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce A Heyman: “Thank you to all our Canadian friends for the outpouring of support today. Your extraordinary friendship is valued and appreciated.”

Police continue to probe reports of masked man with gun on U of T campus

CityNews | posted Monday, Jun 13th, 2016

Heavily-armed Emergency Task Force officers are combing several buildings at Queen’s Park and the University of Toronto’s downtown campus after there were reports of a masked man, potentially armed with a gun, on campus.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said several witnesses saw a man dressed all in black with a black knapsack, reportedly wearing a surgical mask.

At least one witness reported seeing him with a gun, but Saunders couldn’t confirm that ominous angle.

“We have not seen a picture of any firearms at this point in time,” Saunders said. “Someone else has given that information to us which is why we are utilizing the ETF.”

One person has been taken into custody, but Saunders said he doesn’t believe it’s the masked man being sought and he wouldn’t confirm if the arrest was connected to the investigation. “We don’t believe it’s the same person,” he said, only adding that the person was detained as part of an “investigation.”

Campus security contacted police on Monday morning after noticing a masked man on their surveillance cameras. There is construction in the area, but security didn’t recognized the man.

At least two witnesses also called police, with one snapping a photo of the suspicious man.

Numerous buildings have been evacuated and police have closed southbound Queen’s Park while they investigate.

The university’s website has declared a campus emergency.

The following buildings are closed:

  • Falconer Hall:  84 Queen’s Park
  • Faculty of Law: 78 Queen’s Park
  • Trinity College: 6 Hoskin Avenue
  • Faculty of Music: Edward Johnson Building, 80 Queen’s Park
  • Munk School of Global Affairs: 1 Devonshire Place
  • Gerald Larkin Building: 15 Devonshire Place
  • Varsity Centre: 299 Bloor Street West
  • All Victoria University Building

Nearby SickKids Hospital is also under lockdown.

Microsoft to buy networking site LinkedIn for $26.2 billion

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | posted Monday, Jun 13th, 2016

NEW YORK – Microsoft says it is buying professional networking service site LinkedIn for about $26.2 billion.

LinkedIn, based in Mountain View, California, has more than 430 million members. Users can network with professionals, upload their resumes and search for jobs on the site.

Microsoft Corp. says it is paying $196 for each share of LinkedIn Corp., a 50 per cent premium of the stock’s closing price of $131.08 on Friday.

LinkedIn shares soared 49 per cent before the stock market opened Monday.

VIA Rail strike averted as two sides reach tentative deal

CityNews | posted Monday, Jun 13th, 2016

A Via Rail employee climbs aboard a locomotive at the train station in Ottawa on Dec. 3, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
A strike at VIA Rail has been averted.

Unifor, the union representing 1,800 VIA Rail workers, says it has reached a tentative agreement and avoided a work stoppage.

Reports indicate the deal is for four years.

The railway says trains will operate on a regular schedule Monday.

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