York Regional Police Service

“Active Shooter, advance to contact.” Unfortunately, we know what this means as it conjures up mass shootings like Columbine and Las Vegas from the United States, but it happens here in Canada, too.  And on Friday, December 18, 2022, it happened in Vaughan, Ontario.

The phones began to light up at York Regional Police Communications as call takers began receiving multiple frantic 911 calls from victims and witnesses of an active shooter in their building from multiple different floors of the Bellaria Residence condominium in Vaughan.

One of the initial callers was a shooting victim and described in detail what happened to a YRP Call Taker. Unfortunately, this victim would succumb to their injuries before help arrived. 

The YRP Dispatcher who received and dispatched this call to police officers knew what she was sending her officers to, as all Police Communicators receive extensive training on active shooters as well. So, as she dispatched multiple officers, she knew what they may be facing and had a watchful eye as police officers arrived on scene and was the calm voice in their ears.

Officers are trained to form teams as quickly as they can and advance to contact the active shooter.  This could mean following the sounds of gunfire or witness and victim’s directions.  Officers know the adversity, the danger and risk that they are putting themselves in, but also know that this is what they need to do to save lives and stop an active shooter. The officers began to immediately, rapidly deploy into the building knowing the jeopardy they placed themselves in.

After the first groups of officers arrived, they quickly realized the elevators of the 16-floor building were grounded due to the suspect pulling the fire alarm. The first officers planned and made smart decisions on how to respond and split into smaller groups in an immediate rapid deployment.  Officers in teams ran up the two separate stairwells. One group was assigned to start making their way to the known injured party in the penthouse. The others were looking for other victims or the active shooter. 

Within four minutes after police arrived on scene, the subject was found in the hallway of the third floor and neutralized as he was hunting for more victims to shoot but was he the only active shooter remained to be determined.   The advancing teams located several victims and rendered first aid where they could while other officers continued to clear the building unaware there was only one suspect.

When one defines what a hero is, many often think of a person(s) whose actions are responsible for changing the life of one person or the lives of many. The officers in this situation all entered knowing what they could possibly face but found the strength to endure and manage what faced them and did not let it deter them.

It was quickly determined that this gunman had taken the lives of 5 separate civilians and severely injured one.  

All the members dealing with and responding to this event are heroes, including the Communication Call Takers, Dispatchers, Uniformed members, and plain-clothes officers. The act of heroism and bravery was putting others before themselves.