‘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.

Just Posted

15 new mayors to take office across the Kootenays

Here’s a look at the highlights from across the Kootenay region in B.C.

Mayoral results from across B.C.

Voters in 162 municipalities in B.C. set to elect mayor, council, school board and more

Every vote counts: 10 tightest races in B.C.’s municipal elections

Peachland saw their election decided by just one vote

Why municipal elections are important

Voting helps shape our community

Director happy with referendum results

Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area A residents voted in favour of the… Continue reading

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

WWE star Roman Reigns announces he has leukemia

Grappler formerly played in CFL

China opens mega-bridge linking Hong Kong to mainland

The $20 billion bridge took almost a decade to build while incurring major delays and cost overruns

Dangerous Cat 4 Hurricane Willa closing in on Mexico coast

Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state

Excessive speed named as cause of Taiwan train derailment

18 people were killed and at least 170 more were injured

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

Most Read