Hours of anticipation gave way to unbridled euphoria as a sea of Raptors fans greeted the newly crowned NBA champions with cheers, whistles and chants on Monday, but elation quickly turned to fear when gunshots interrupted the celebration in downtown Toronto.
Moments after the team emerged on stage during a rally at the end of a victory parade, the sound of gunfire sent dozens of panicked supporters running from the one end of Nathan Phillips Square, grabbing friends and children as they fled.
The festivities were briefly suspended as one of the hosts alerted the masses, most of whom had been there since the morning, that there was an emergency. Organizers urged the public to stay calm and the event resumed shortly afterwards.
Police said two people had been shot and suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. Two suspects were arrested and firearms recovered, police said.
Nathan Phillip's Square
-Reports of woman shot
-People running from area
-Police/EMS are on scene
-Unknown what the injuries are#GO112676
— Toronto Police OPS (@TPSOperations) June 17, 2019
Some fans said they feared for their lives and remained shaken even after the situation returned to normal. Others said the shooting, though frightening, should not mar the festivities.
“It’s so horrible that that happened but we are united as a city and that shouldn’t define who we are or what today was about,” said Ahilan Sivakumar, 19.
Several had huddled near pillars in Nathan Phillips Square even as the team and several dignitaries — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford — remained on stage during the rally. Others dashed into a nearby hotel or leapt into bushes to get out of the way. The ceremony wrapped up a short time later.
Andrew Singh said he heard what appeared to be gunshots before people started scrambling.
“We just saw the girl drop to the floor and the guy running off,” the 29-year-old said. ” All I heard was bop bop bop.”
The rally — and the shooting that interrupted it — capped off a day that saw fans dressed in red and black — the Raptors’ colours — take over swaths of the city’s downtown. City officials said more than a million people were gathered in and around the area.
The Canadian Press