‘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

Hornby and Denman Community Health Care Society celebrates 40th anniversary

The Hornby and Denman Community Health Care Society is celebrating its 40th… Continue reading

RCMP Emergency Response Team called in to arrest man at Black Creek General Store

42-year-old Campbell River man facing numerous charges

Air ambulance called in for single-car MVA on Highway 19A at Union Bay

Two people were in car at the time of the accident

Dog from Comox Valley team finds missing woman in his first SAR mission

CVGSAR sent K9 teams to help with search on Saanich Peninsula on the weekend

Comox Valley teacher’s initiative helps with literacy in Kenya

Carol Walters, a Comox Valley Schools literacy support teacher, is doing some… Continue reading

ELECTION 2019: Climates strikes push environment to top of mind for federal leaders

Black Press Media presents a three-part series on three big election issues

Potent power play paces Canucks to 5-1 win over Detroit

Miller nets a pair as Vancouver wins third straight

UPDATE: British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in U.S. after crossing border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

After losing two baby boys, B.C. parents hope to cut through the taboo of infant death

Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in B.C.

Cheating husband sues mistress for gifted ring after wife learns about affair

The husband gave his mistress $1,000 to buy herself a ring in December 2017

B.C. massage therapist reprimanded, fined for exposing patients’ breasts

Registered massage therapist admits professional misconduct

B.C. boosts legal aid funding in new payment contract

‘Duty counsel’ service restored in some communities, David Eby says

Rugby Canada helps recovery efforts in Japan after typhoon cancels final match

Canadian players wanted to “give back in whatever small way they could”

VIDEO: Bear spies on cyclists riding by on Campbell River street

Riders seem unaware the bruin is mere feet away on the side of the road

Most Read