This is part of my ongoing series on Canadian Mass Murders.
On June 2, 2012, with a grudge in his heart and a gun in his hand, Christopher Husbands walked into the Toronto Eaton Centre’s North Food Court and opened fire on Nixon Nirmalendran and Ahmed Hassan.
Christopher Husbands didn’t care who else he hurt, so long as his intended victims were among the dead.
Ahmed Hassan, 25, died at the scene.
Nixon Nirmalendran, 20, succumbed to his injuries in hospital on June 11, 2012.
For Christopher Husbands, this was mission accomplished.
“Our investigation continues to suggest that this is a targeted shooting and not a random act of violence against members of the general public,” said lead investigator Detective Sergeant Brian Borg.
“Even though there are several persons who have been identified in this case as being known gang members, or who have gang associations, I do not believe this to be a gang-motivated shooting.”
Five others were injured, including 13-year-old Connor Stevenson, who was shot in the head. Despite a bullet entering his brain through his forehead, Connor made a miraculous and almost total recovery.
The other four people injured received relatively minor injuries. All were released from the hospital on June 3rd.
Toronto homicide investigators believed Husbands and the two men he murdered belonged to the same street gang.
“It may be that [two people] have gang affiliations, or it may be just the one of them, but we do believe that our deceased in this case may have had some gang affiliation,” said Detective Sgt. Brian Borg.
An unidentified public-housing official, the Globe and Mail reports , familiar with the Regent Park public-housing complex and the Sic Thugs street gang based there, said Hassan and several others allegedly bound Christopher Husbands with duct tape, stabbed him 25 times and robbed him of $450.
Amazingly, Husbands survived the stabbing attack.
Toronto Police would not confirm the February 28, 2012, stabbing was the killer’s motive, or if Husbands’ previous conviction and subsequent house arrest for a 2010 sexual assault was connected to the stabbing attack.
Husbands surrendered to police two days after the shooting and, on December 17, 2014, was found guilty of two counts of second degree murder, five counts of aggravated assault and individual counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and reckless discharge of a firearm.
Superior Court Justice Eugene Ewaschuk sentenced Christopher Husbands to 30 years-to-life imprisonment on April 15, 2015.
Husbands appealed his conviction and, in 2017, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted him a new trial because “the jury selection procedure followed by the trial judge deprived the court of jurisdiction to try him.”
After a lengthy discussion of the legal principles at issue, the Court of Appeal said,
For these reasons, I would allow the appeal, set aside the convictions and order a new trial on each offence of which the appellant was convicted. Since there was no appeal of the acquittals of first degree murder, the new trial should be held on a redrafted indictment charging two counts of second degree murder with the remaining counts unchanged.
That new trial began on June 27, 2019, and ran sporadically until November 6, 2019.
On November 29, 2019, Christopher Husbands was found guilty of two counts of manslaughter, five counts of aggravated assault, one count of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and reckless discharge of a firearm.
In his decision, Justice B.P. O’Marra wrote:
Christopher Husbands fired 14 rounds from his gun.
The video footages shows him firing in the direction of Nixon Nirmalendran and Nisan Nirmalendran.
When Christopher Husbands stopped firing after emptying his magazine, Ahmed Hassan lay dead on the ground. He was 24 years of age.
Nixon Nirmalendran was critically injured. He was rushed to St. Michael’s Hospital. He died 9 days later on June 11, 2012 from complications from gunshot wounds. He was 22-years-old.
Innocent bystanders were also harmed by the bullets that may have travelled through several different bodies or ricocheted off floors, walls or pillars.
On sentencing the court must consider and balance the aggravating and mitigating factors. In this case the mitigating factors are significantly if not overwhelmingly outweighed by the aggravating factors and the need to reflect general deterrence and denunciation.
Justice O’Marra sentenced Christopher Husbands to life in prison, but because of time served he will be eligible for parole later this year, 2021.
Below are links to all the court’s rulings in R. v. Husbands, for those interested, as this case made its way from trial to appeal and to the retrial where he was ultimately convicted and sentenced to life in prison again.
- 2014-02-24 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/oncj/doc/2014/2014oncj89/2014oncj89.html
- 2016-05-09 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2016/2016onsc3007/2016onsc3007.html
- 2017-07-21 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onca/doc/2017/2017onca607/2017onca607.html
- 2019-03-11 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc1586/2019onsc1586.html
- 2019-03-13 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc1590/2019onsc1590.html
- 2019-03-20 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc1686/2019onsc1686.html
- 2019-04-08 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc1945/2019onsc1945.html
- 2019-04-24 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc2458/2019onsc2458.html
- 2019-05-10 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc2886/2019onsc2886.html
- 2019-05-14 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc2594/2019onsc2594.html
- 2019-11-29 https://www.canlii.org/en/on/onsc/doc/2019/2019onsc6824/2019onsc6824.html