From the outside, Faisal Hussain appeared to be living a normal life for a 29 year old.
People who knew him say he was unflinchingly polite, had a smile that could light up a room, and helped take care of his aging parents.
Only the people closest to Hussain knew that he had spent most of his life battling depression, psychosis and other mental health issues – and not even the people who knew about that had any reason to think he was planning a mass shooting.
“I can’t put two and two together. I can’t believe it’s him,” friend Aamir Sukhera told reporters Monday.
Hussain has been named by investigators as the man who opened fire on Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue late Sunday night, shooting pedestrians as well as people in restaurants and cafes.
Reese Fallon, an 18-year-old woman about to start nursing school, was killed, as was a 10-year-old girl. Thirteen other people were injured. Hussain also died after exchanging gunfire with police officers.
Hussain’s family released a statement Monday decrying the “horrific actions” of Faisal Hussain and offering condolences to the people hurt and killed in the shooting.
“We are utterly devastated by the incomprehensible news that our son was responsible for the senseless violence and loss of life that took place on the Danforth,” the family said.
According to the family, Hussain struggled with “severe mental health challenges” with neither medication nor therapy able to improve his condition.
“While we did our best to seek help for him throughout his life of struggle and pain, we could never imagine that this would be his devastating and destructive end,” the statement reads.
Hussain lived with his parents in a seventh-floor apartment in Toronto’s Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood, a few kilometres north of the Danforth. Police executed a search warrant at the apartment on Monday and were seen removing boxes of evidence from the building.
Ashley Robinson, a neighbour, said she immediately recognized Hussain in videos of Sunday’s shooting because of his hat and beard.
“I started tearing up, because I knew who that was,” she said.
Sukhera said his relationship with Hussain stretched back to Hussain’s childhood. He said he had helped Hussain join a Toastmasters group to become more outgoing, and Hussain had confided in him about his mental health issues several years ago – which surprised Sukhera, who had always thought of his friend as “upbeat and happy.”
The last time they saw each other was three weeks ago. Sukhera said Hussain was worried that his hours were being cut at the grocery store he worked at, and said he had to find another way to make money, but did not display any obvious signs of misery.
“It seemed like he was doing well,” Sukhera said.
Police said Monday that they had yet to determine the motive behind the shooting. Experts said the attack did not bear any hallmarks of gang-related activity.
John Aruldason, who witnessed the shooting, described Hussain’s movements as “very casual” as he made his way down the Danforth.
“If you didn’t see the gun in his hand, there would be no reason to pick him out of a crowd,” he said.
Another witness described seeing a gunman zig-zag across the street, seemingly searching out “easy targets.”
Video taken at the scene shows Hussain demonstrating a level of familiarity with his weapon, as he was able to aim and reload the gun quickly and efficiently.