Two people were shot and wounded at a rally Monday for the NBA champion Toronto Raptors that turned into a stampede. Police said there were two arrests.
Droves of Raptors fans ran from the shooting in the City Hall square packed with tens of thousands of fans. A million or more fans earlier packed downtown Toronto for a parade, raising safety concerns amid problems with overcrowding.
Toronto police spokeswoman Allison Sparkes confirmed the shootings and arrests. 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 underway.
During a speech from one of the team owners the host of the rally interrupted the proceedings to say there were dealing with an emergency situation and asked for calm. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Toronto’s mayor, star player Kawhi Leonard the other players were among those on stage at the time. They 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, noting he was startled but otherwise OK.
Earlier in the day, Mayor John Tory urged every resident to come celebrate the Raptors’ first championship and declared this “We The North Day” in Toronto, after the franchise’s slogan.
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.
“I actually have exams this week, but being here is worth it,” he said.
John Moreira called in sick to work so he could be part of Toronto’s first celebration of this magnitude since the Toronto 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,” star forward Kawhi 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. The two-time Finals MVP will be a free agent this summer.
Star guard Kyle Lowry, the team’s longest-serving member, was seen hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy while his teammates smoked cigars.
“This is unbelievable,” he said.