It was a busy night at a downtown Toronto steakhouse Saturday when a gunman strode through the crowded restaurant looking for one man in particular, then opened fire among the tables of diners at Michael's on Simcoe.
Simon Giannini, a 54-year-old well-known real estate broker with Royal LePage, was shot multiple times and was later pronounced dead in hospital. Toronto Police are now looking for a suspect in what they say is a targeted shooting, though friends and colleagues are stunned as to what could have motivated the attack.
"He had a heart of gold. He was an amazing dad and he was ever ready to help people," said Nishad Lakhani, a colleague of Mr. Giannini's in the real estate industry. "He was a mentor. If I had a question or I needed help, he was always willing."
Ms. Lakhani said her office is shocked by the news. "Right now, everybody's just at a loss for words," she said.
The shooter entered Michael's, an upscale steakhouse in the downtown Entertainment District, just before 9 p.m., wearing a hooded jacket and jogging pants. Witnesses reported hearing at least four shots fired in the restaurant before the gunman fled on foot and got into a white SUV.
"The hood [on his jacket] was up and his face was covered," Toronto Police Detective Shannon Dawson said of the shooter. "It appears that it was targeted."
Paramedics performed CPR on Mr. Giannini outside the restaurant before taking him by ambulance to hospital. About 150 diners were said to be in the restaurant at the time, including a man Mr. Giannini was dining with, who was unharmed. Det. Dawson said police are now looking to talk to as many of those customers as possible to piece together any details of what happened.
"It was a busy restaurant," Det. Dawson said. "We think many of [the customers] may have fled very quickly and perhaps those people haven't had a chance to speak to us, and we'd like them to take this time to come speak to us to provide anything they witnessed."
In particular, police are hoping someone outside may have caught the shooter's escape on a cellphone or dashboard camera.
"We have had several witnesses come forward and provide statements, but we'd like further information to come forward," Det. Dawson said.
As a real estate broker in Toronto, Mr. Giannini enjoyed a high profile in the city, authoring a book on home buying and hosting an online show that also once ran as a paid program on Corus Radio. The married father of two boys was not previously known to police, Det. Dawson said.
It is the second time in two years the steakhouse has been the scene of a targeted shooting. On Sept. 20, 2015, two men wearing masks strode into the restaurant just before 10 p.m. and opened fire on two customers, with about 40 people dining nearby. The shooters then fled. Terry Nguyen, 29, and a 28-year-old woman were both seriously injured but survived.
Det. Dawson said police do not believe the two incidents are related. At the time of the previous shooting, restaurant owner Michael Dabic described his steakhouse as a family restaurant, where his own family works, including his son and daughter. Mr. Dabic could not be reached on Sunday.
Police believe they are searching for a single suspect, but Det. Dawson said little else is known, including a motive for the attack.
When the shots began, scared customers dove under their tables for protection. An unnamed restaurant employee told CP24 on Saturday night that she rushed to help Mr. Giannini once the shooter had left.
"It was pretty crazy," the employee said. "After it happened, I ran into the kitchen, into the lounge and saw the gentleman sitting there, so I applied pressure to his exit wound."