‘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

Your weekly Mountain Minute

Golden’s 60-second news recap

An Everest fundraiser

Man set to climb elevation of Mt. Everest in one day to raise school lunch funds

Interior Health study offers take-home drug testing kits to spot fentanyl

Interior Health to evaluate safety of at home drug testing kits aimed at reducing fentanyl overdoses

Golden Fire Rescue training grounds get a facelift

Residents may have noticed some changes at the fire hall in the… Continue reading

Area A Aquatic Feasibility Advisory Committee appointed

Submitted A committee has been formed to look into the idea of… Continue reading

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of Victoria Day

How much do you know about the monarch whose day we celebrate each May?

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

The father and two youngesters fell down a steep and treachorous cliff while hiking on Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Carbon dioxide at highest levels for over 2.5 million years, expert warns of 100 years of disruption

CO2 levels rising rapidly, now higher than at any point in humanity’s history

B.C. ferry stops to let black bear swim past near Nanaimo

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Most Read