By the end of 2017, Canadians had registered 943,785 handguns. Every month, that number grows by tens of thousands.
After 32 years as a constable for the Toronto Police Service, Patrick McLeod was ready for a less stressful life. No more facing down criminals. No more psychological armour. Now that he was officially retired, he and his wife, Jane, decided to book a long, celebratory European vacation for later that summer.
Then everything changed.
Around 10 p.m. on July 22, 2018, while the McLeods were watching television, their daughter called in a panic.
Skye McLeod, who had graduated from high school a month earlier, had headed downtown to celebrate a friend’s 18th birthday. On their way home, a group of eight close friends— including Reese Fallon, who grew up directly across the street from the McLeods—had stopped for ice cream on Toronto’s bustling Danforth Ave., then wandered over to the Alexander the Great Parkette.
McLeod couldn’t make out what Skye was saying on the phone.
“What? What? Slow down. I can’t understand you,” he said.
“Someone’s trying to kill us,” his daughter replied.
Skye painted a desperate scene: she and five others had locked themselves in the downstairs bathroom of a restaurant after someone had opened fire on them.
“Keep the door locked,” her dad told her. “I’m on the way.”
McLeod kept Skye on the line as he and Jane grabbed the keys to their Honda minivan. As they pulled out of the driveway for the 10-minute trip, Jane called the Fallons to tell them they’d better hurry over to the Danforth.
When McLeod arrived and stepped out of their vehicle, he observed a crime scene unlike any he’d ever seen. There were injured people all over the place, and countless ambulance attendants and firefighters were bent over bloodied victims.
Police were beginning to secure the scene, putting up tape and blocking traffic, but no one bothered to stop McLeod. With his shaved head, stocky build and a cellphone held to one ear, he looked every bit a cop.
On the other end of the phone, Skye couldn’t tell him where she was hiding. When the violence broke out, she and her friends took refuge quickly and hadn’t noted the name of the place. McLeod surveyed the scene and settled on Lukumum, a dessert eatery two storefronts east from the parkette.
Once he was inside, McLeod spotted someone he took to be the owner hiding behind the counter.
“Is there anyone in your basement?” he asked.
“Yeah, there’s a bunch of people hiding down there.”
McLeod ran down the stairs. At the bottom, he could see blood smears across the door of the men’s washroom.
“Skye, are you in there?” he yelled. “It’s your dad. Open the door. It’s safe.”
The locked door clicked and six people tumbled from the tiny bathroom— Skye and three friends, along with two other bystanders. Many of them were scraped and bleeding from the scramble to flee the gunshots.
Upstairs, McLeod sat everyone down and asked restaurant staff for water and napkins to treat the cuts. After a time, the rest of Skye’s group floated in from various hiding spots—all except one.
“Skye, where’s Reese?” asked McLeod.McLEOD FOUND A POLICE OFFICER AND GAVE A DESCRIPTION OF HIS DAUGHTER’S MISSING FRIEND.
THE MCLEODS HAD KNOWN Fallon since she was born. Just a few weeks earlier, she had been sitting at their kitchen table with Skye, studying for final exams.
One of Skye’s friends dialed Fallon’s phone from Lukumum, but she wasn’t picking up. McLeod found a police officer and gave a description of the missing member of the party. The officer asked McLeod to step outside the restaurant. There was a girl under a blanket at the west side of the parkette who fit that description, he said. She’d been killed.
There’s no way, McLeod thought to himself.
“Where?” he said. He’d seen his share of bodies. It was up to him to ensure this wasn’t Reese, to make everything right.
The officer led him to the parkette and pulled the blanket back. McLeod’s legs buckled. He fell to his knees. Everything was spinning. The Fallons were on their way, and someone needed to tell them about their daughter.
McLeod gathered himself and tracked down two detectives. Together, they decided they would find Fallon’s parents, Doug Fallon and Claudine deBeaumont, so the detectives could break the news.
Police officers patrol the stretch of Toronto’s Danforth Avenue where the shooting took place.
As they moved toward the boundary of the scene, McLeod spotted the Fallons and waved. When he looked behind him, the detectives had disappeared. It was up to him.
“I’ve got news, but the news is not good,” McLeod told the couple.
Later that night, the McLeod family joined the Fallons at home. The grief was raw. At some point in the night, Reese’s parents asked about the shooter. Who was he? How’d he get a gun?
McLeod didn’t know much. He didn’t want to. He figured the guy had killed himself. Case closed.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
Believe in Progress
In an excerpt from his book Rationality, psychologist Steven Pinker explains why, despite everything, our future is bright
The Problem With BMI
It's effective, but not for everybody
Using arts education to end homelessness
LITTLE BOY LOST
WHEN DYLAN EHLER DISAPPEARED, THE INTERNET TURNED ON HIS PARENTS
Should I Buy Bitcoin?
We quiz Henry M. Kim, business prof
Mother Nature Knows Best
How one logging town is winning the battle against the climate crisis
COFFEE AND TEA LOWER DEMENTIA RISK
As well as helping you wake up in the morning, moderate consumption of coffee and tea may also lower your risk of cognitive decline. In fact, a study of over 350,000 people living in the U.K. found that those who drank two to three cups every day had a 32 percent lower risk of stroke and a 28 percent lower risk of dementia compared to people who drank none.
It took two decades to get a diagnosis for her chronic fainting
GET THAT CHECKED!
HERE ARE 20 SYMPTOMS TO NEVER IGNORE
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES BELIEVE THAT EVIL SURROUNDS US. WHAT I SHOULD HAVE FEARED WAS THE RELIGION ITSELF
Jimmy Fallon, At Your Service
He spent years chasing a dream that wasn’t really his. But when the biggest opportunity of his career came knocking, he realized he had to find his “why,” or fail trying.
SEASON PREMIERE 8/7c, The CW
Forget IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA! TV’s Funniest Lines Are On Soaps.
GETTING TO KNOW CHEF FRANCISCO ALEJANDRI VAZQUEZ
He left behind the kitchens of some of the best hotels in Mexico and journeyed to Canada. Founder of acclaimed Toronto restaurant Agave y Aguacate (now closed, as he recently moved back to Mexico), he sat down with us to talk about his journey.
Where the Housing Boom Never Ends
Real estate dominates Canada’s economy to an alarming degree
ROBBIE GALLOWS: SHADOWS OF THE PAST
I paint my memories, so people will know how we used to live, and then I am reminded that Punk is not dead; it has evolved, and it remains within me, and in the world I live in. - Robbie Gallows
Return to Toronto
International visitors will once again converge in Canada’s convention city.
THE HUNTER CHEF
Michael Hunter Brings Backwoods Fine Dining to Canada’s Biggest City
THE LINK UP
AFTER TORONTO NATIVE ROY WOODS PAID HOMAGE TO PASCAL SIAKAM ON HIS LATEST EP, WE HAD TO INTRODUCE THE OVO SOUND ARTIST TO THE RAPTORS ALL-STAR. HERE, THEY TALK ABOUT TORONTO CULTURE, MUSIC, BALL AND SO MUCH MORE.
Forget BLESS THIS MESS! Some Of TV’s Funniest Lines Are On Soaps.