Toronto police said they believe a 21-year-old student at York University’s Schulich School of Business was the intended target of a fatal shooting in Malvern overnight based on the way he was ambushed.
The young man, identified as Scarborough resident Venojan Suthesan, was gunned down outside Lester B. Pearson Collegiate Institute, located near Tapscott Road and Washburn Way, at around midnight Monday.
Family members said he had just finished work and was on his way to the gym when he was shot.
Speaking to reporters at the scene on Monday, Homicide Det. Andy Singh said Suthesan lived a short distance from where the shooting took place and his family said his gym was located directly across the street from the high school.
While a possible motive has not been determined for the killing, Singh said the victim, who was “immediately blitzed,” was the intended target.
“He finished his shift at a local restaurant and took the bus home and he arrived home just around 11 p.m. What we know now is that he left his house around 11:30 p.m. and he ended up in the area of Tapscott Road and Washburn Way,” he said. “This is where we believe – on the school property – he was blitzed by a suspect we believe was waiting for him and this suspect discharged multiple rounds and Suthesan was struck multiple times.”
When asked if mistaken identity was a possible factor in the murder, Singh said investigators are “open” to the idea.
Singh said the suspect was seen fleeing the scene southbound on Washburn Way armed with a handgun following the incident. He has been described by officers as a five-foot-10 male with dark skin, who was wearing a white or light-coloured hoodie with light-brown khaki pants at the time.
Officers said they believe a vehicle had just left the school parking lot prior to the shooting.
“There was a vehicle that was in the area 40 minutes prior to the homicide, which we believe was circling in the area,” Singh said. “This vehicle also was at the school parking lot and it waited there for a little bit of time. We believe the vehicle might be associated with the suspect and might have picked him up after.”
The vehicle has only been described by police as a dark-coloured car.
Singh added that investigators have received surveillance camera footage of the area from the Toronto District School Board but it has not been publicly released.
A man who claimed to be the uncle of the victim said his nephew was studying accounting at Schulich.
“He’s never been in trouble,” the man told reporters at the scene. “He’s a good student.”
Suthesan’s cousin Monika Selvarajah said her family is heartbroken and in shock.
“He’s a go-getter. He is always positive,” she told CTV News Toronto. “He had such a bright future.”
Suthesan’s manager at Pickle Barrel, near Leslie Street and Finch Avenue, said the young man was a banquet server at the restaurant and had worked there for the past five years.
“He is the last person in the world that would have ever deserved this,” said May, who didn’t want to give her last name.
“He was so caring and so kind. It just breaks my heart to see such an innocent, kind person go away just like that,” she said tearfully. “He worked during weekends and weeknights to help support himself and his family so he could take care of them and get a better education to have a better life.”
In a statement, president and vice-chancellor Rhonda L. Lenton said York University is mourning the “untimely loss of this member of our student community.”
“Suthesan was very active in the Shulich community, serving as the vice-president of corporate relations on the undergraduate business society, and as a Schulich ambassdador,” she said. “Suthesan was regarded as an incredibly bright, energetic, kind and compassionaite individual, who was always there to help out his fellow students.”
Lenton said the university’s flag will be lowered to half-mast in Suthesan’s honour.
Police are asking anyone who can account for Suthesan’s whereabouts on Sunday to contact investigators or Crime Stoppers anonymously.