Condo board members among five victims in Vaughan shooting, police say
By Fakiha Baig in Vaughan
Three members of a condo board were among the five people killed at a Toronto-area highrise by a 73-year-old resident who went to several units and used a semi-automatic handgun on his victims, authorities said Monday as community members expressed shock at what happened.
Police identified the suspect as Francesco Villi, and said he killed three men and two women on Sunday night. They did not provide further details on the victims. A 66-year-old woman who was also shot at the Vaughan, Ont., condo was in hospital.
York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said the “tragic shooting” ended after police were called to the building a little before 7:30 p.m. and tracked Villi to the third floor, where an officer shot him dead.
“The motive for the shooting remains part of this very complicated and very fluid investigation, which is still ongoing at this time,” MacSween said during a news conference.
Court documents indicate a man with the same name as the alleged gunman had a long-standing dispute with his condo board.
Villi filed a lawsuit against six directors and officers of the board in 2020, alleging the board members “committed acts of crime and criminality from 2010 onwards.” He further alleged the directors had caused him five years of “torment” and “torture” related to alleged issues with the electrical room below his unit.
Justice Joseph Di Luca tossed the case this summer, calling it “frivolous” and “vexatious.”
Court documents also show that Villi was set to return to court on Monday as the board sought to have him evicted for being a nuisance.
Legal documents further show the board sought a restraining order in 2018 against Villi for his “allegedly threatening, abusive, intimidating and harassing behaviour” towards the board, property management, workers and residents.
John DiNino, a condominium board member named in the court documents, told The Canadian Press his wife, Doreen, had been shot at the building on Sunday and was undergoing emergency surgery in hospital on Monday.
“It’s so overwhelming right now,” he said. “We’re just hoping and praying.”
A Facebook page for a man named Francesco Villi had a video posted online hours before the Sunday shooting. In it, a man identifies himself, lists the address of the building where the shooting took place and says that he is a resident of the condo.
The video also shows the man calling a member of the condo board a “monster” and alleging building owners, condo board members, lawyers and judges are conspiring against him.
“Everybody are working to destroy me,” he said during the 16-minute video, glasses perched on his nose. “I will never become one of you – liars, demons – never.”
Tony Cutrone, a condo board member since March, said he owns a unit in the building where his 79-year-old mother lives. He said he joined the board because a man named Francesco Villi was harassing his mother and other senior residents.
Villi would walk around with his cane, yelling at residents and saying offensive and hurtful things, Cutrone said. Once Cutrone joined the board, he said he learned there was a long history with Villi complaining about sounds from an electrical room.
“He was harassing anyone and everyone,” Cutrone said. “We couldn’t keep cleaners, management, security. Nobody wanted to work there.”
Cutrone said there wasn’t much the condominium board could do.
“We were handcuffed,” he said, adding that he never suspected the situation might result in violence. “I didn’t think he would go to this extent … I thought he was all bark.”
A heavy police presence remained at the building on Monday, with 15 cruisers and a large forensic identification truck parked outside the highrise in the morning. The main entrance to the building was taped off.
Building resident John Santoro said he had opened the door of his unit Sunday night to see a pair of officers armed with rifles by the elevators.
“I did hear a commotion in the corridor,” he said, adding that police were going floor to floor as they responded to the shooting. Santoro said the building was soon surrounded by police and emergency vehicles.
“The ambulances started rolling in … I saw body bags coming out, being loaded into ambulances,” he said. “We knew it was something very big.”
Another building resident said he was still processing what happened.
“It’s just shocking to be honest,” said Jordan Bennett, who went out to get food Sunday night and returned to find a heavy police presence at the building.
“I feel pretty safe here so I’m pretty shocked to hear something like this happened.”
Nkazhi Azakw, who works taking care of a senior in the building, said she was shocked to hear her client’s friends were among those killed.
“Coming to hear that this couple died is really heartbreaking,” she said.
Ontario’s police watchdog said the suspected gunman was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 8 p.m. A semi-automatic handgun was recovered at the scene, the Special Investigations Unit said.
Police said they could not comment on whether the suspected gunman was a registered firearms owner.
Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca called the shooting a “horrific act” and offered condolences to the victims’ families while also thanking first responders for their work.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also expressed his shock at what happened.
“All of Ontario is thinking of the victims of this senseless violence and the family and friends grieving their loss,” he wrote on Twitter.
– with files from Liam Casey and Jordan Omstead in Toronto and Kelly Geraldine Malone in Saskatchewan
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2022.
Banner image via The Canadian Press