‘Everybody tried to save her’: Toronto shooting witness recounts violent night

On Friday evening, staff from businesses in Toronto’s Greektown were expected to gather for a moment of silence

(Canadian Press)

Md Ashaduzzaman was working a routine kitchen shift at a cafe in Toronto’s Greektown when he heard the gunshots. The screams broke out moments later — among them were cries of a woman calling for someone to help her daughter.

Ashaduzzaman rushed into the dining area to find 10-year-old Julianna Kozis bleeding from a gunshot wound to the thigh. He held her, tried to keep her from losing consciousness and eventually saw paramedics take her away.

It was only two days later that he found out Julianna was one of the two people killed in the shooting spree on Danforth Avenue that also injured 13 and ended with the death of the gunman. Since then, Ashaduzzaman said he’s been in disbelief.

“I wasn’t expecting her to die,” he said. “I’m feeling really tired … I’m shocked.”

Ashaduzzaman said he clearly remembers the chaos that erupted on Sunday night.

“People ran to the back of the restaurant,” he said, his voice quivering. “And then I heard a woman crying and yelling, ‘my daughter’ and to call an ambulance.”

That’s when Ashaduzzaman and his colleague ran over to Julianna, who had been sitting at a table near the front window of Caffe Demetre.

“I was holding her and I looked at her and said, ‘stay with us. It’s going to be OK. Look at me,’” he said. “I was trying to wake her up. She was losing consciousness.”

Julianna was bleeding heavily, Ashaduzzaman said. A man who appeared to be her father was also injured, he said.

“He was lying down, it looked like he couldn’t move his leg,” said Ashaduzzaman, adding that a boy who appeared to be Julianna’s brother was sitting nearby and appeared to be in shock.

“Everybody was crying and everybody was scared.”

READ MORE: Many questions but few answers in Toronto’s Greektown shooting

READ MORE: No evidence linking ISIL to deadly Toronto shooting, police chief says

In the days since the shooting, Ashaduzzaman said he’s felt drained, but is working to cope.

His workplace has offered counselling to staff, who will be returning to work next week, he said. Ashaduzzaman said he hasn’t yet decided if he’ll take up the offer of counselling, or take more time off work.

“I’m trying my best to move on,” he said.

Experts said Ashaduzzaman’s feelings are not uncommon.

The closer a person is to experiencing a traumatic event, the greater the emotional and psychological toll, said Dr. Katy Kamkar, who works at the psychological trauma program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

“If someone worked near the area, lived near the area, even if we know people who were there at the scene — the closer the proximity, the higher the risk of emotional and psychological reaction,” she said.

WATCH: Toronto’s Danforth community mourns shooting victims

Kamkar said overall common symptoms people may experience after a traumatic event include shock, denial, irritability, fear, sadness, feelings of helplessness, and a change in sleep, appetite, and trouble with memory and focusing on daily activities

If those symptoms increase over time and interfere with a person’s daily life, that person should seek professional help, she said. Everyone experiences such symptoms differently but Kamkar stressed that people should know that these feelings are normal.

“Knowledge is power. Knowledge builds our awareness, and when we build our awareness, we are better able to cope,” she said. “Also, building connections and community is very important with coping.”

Tanya L. Sharpe, a professor at the University of Toronto’s school of social work who specializes in surviving mass violence and effects of homicide, said it’s also common for direct witnesses to experience hyper-vigilance, have flashbacks and be overly aware of their surroundings.

“With unanticipated deaths, survivors go through what is called complicated grief, so there are other factors which impact their grief, such as seeing the scene play out over and over again in the media, or going back to the scene of the event again,” she said.

On Friday evening, staff from businesses in Toronto’s Greektown were expected to gather for a moment of silence.

Ashaduzzaman, who hasn’t been back to Greektown since the shooting, said he didn’t know if he would attend but said he wanted the Kozis family to know every effort was made to help Julianna.

“The situation wasn’t good,” he said. “Everybody tried to save her.”

Alanna Rizza, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Smoky skies clearing throughout B.C. Interior

Environment Canada expects “widespread” improvement for all affected areas by Sunday

Penticton wildfire crew goes from Christie Mountain to Cold Springs

The team at Eagle Ridge Consulting is helping fight fires across the border

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Kiera Bourque manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

COVID-19 minimizes Okanagan Regional Library budget increase

Library adapts to pandemic fiscal disruptions

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Stranger in truck grabs boy walking home from school in Kelowna

The 11-year-old boy escaped the incident, RCMP are investigating

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read