By Jon Eastaugh in Toronto
The alleged shooter was arrested Tuesday, as investigators in Toronto look into the connection between the police shooting and the fatal shooting of another man two days earlier.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said Michael Eligon, 25, of Toronto, has been charged with second-degree murder in the death of Abdul Hakim Muhammad, also 25, who was shot to death Monday after witnesses say he ran out of a liquor store with what appeared to be an air gun.
Ricky Henderson, who runs the Black Maple Lane Community Center in north Toronto, told The Associated Press that he heard shots ring out at about 10:30 p.m. Monday in the Drake Village neighbourhood. He says he watched a group of people run toward the entrance of a liquor store. Two of them were shot, and the group drove off.
The first police officer on the scene identified himself as a police officer and fired, and witnesses say the officer shot at Hakim while he was running. Police have not confirmed that.
Hakim died at the scene, and the officer was taken to a hospital and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries.
Saunders said the officer who fired his weapon is a single-officer street unit in his early 30s who has been with the force for about two years.
“My primary concern at this point is for the officer and his family. I understand the officer’s concern that he’s potentially going to lose his job,” Saunders said. “I was fortunate to have counsel and I went to the board to be debriefed on it. I wanted to make sure we were in agreement we should not terminate that officer because that officer, quite frankly, needed some time to get himself back together.”
Saunders has been under pressure to launch an independent investigation into the shooting. Many in the black community have been demanding that there be no one independent of the Toronto Police Service to lead such an investigation. The Toronto Police Association is demanding the chief step down.
“There’s no details that would be helpful at this point,” Saunders said. “We’re going to allow the investigation to unfold in our community.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory said he has asked Saunders to continue to conduct an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.
“My heart goes out to the family of the victim and to the individual who was injured,” Tory said. “And we’re going to wait until the police commissioner has concluded his investigation.”
Tory said the police force’s use of force policies are being examined.
The shooting was the second police shooting involving an arrest in less than a week. On Sunday, a young black man died following an alleged undercover police operation near a downtown housing project that erupted in violence. Dozens of people were arrested and police said shots were fired.
Tennis star Serena Williams, who grew up in Toronto, attended Hakim’s funeral on Tuesday.
He was shot two days after another young black man, 15-year-old Joshua Yasay, was fatally shot by police on the same night. Police say the two were armed with knives and that the shooting was justified.
Associated Press writers David Bauder in New York and Donna Spencer in Toronto contributed to this report.