A vigorous morning exercise class in Christie Pits Park in Toronto turned chaotic Saturday as a gunman shot two participants before fleeing the scene.
One victim, 35, was shot in the abdomen at around 9 a.m., said Toronto Police, while another was hit in the foot by a stray bullet. Both were brought by ambulance to the hospital. Toronto paramedics say that the first man is in surgery with life-threatening injuries.
The Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre, a housing place for men, confirmed on their Facebook page one of the victims was Alejandro Vivar, 35. The centre declined to provide additional comment. The Facebook post was later removed Saturday evening.
The class, Prison Pump, was run by the non-profit company 25/7 Fitness and offered free classes every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. in Christie Pits Park.
According to the company's website, the idea for the classes started at an entrepreneurial workshop in a penitentiary in November 2015. Alejandro Vivar, the founder, was released March 2016, and the inaugural class was held in Christie Pits Park in May 2016, with more than 30 people in attendance. Calls to the number associated with 25/7 Fitness went unanswered.
In 2007, Mr. Vivar, the alleged leader of the Latino Americanos Gang, faced 16 criminal charges, including trafficking cocaine and multiple counts of possessing restricted firearms.
In 2004, he was charged with and later acquitted of the first-degree murder of Gary Malo on the evening of February 23, 2002, court documents show.
While serving his time in prison, Mr. Vivar became a prolific writer for the Kingston Whig Standard, contributing a number of opinion pieces about behind bars. Mr. Vivar served eight years in federal prison, first at Collins Bay Institution, a multilevel security prison in Kingston, Ont., and later at Bath Institution, on the same property as the Millhaven facility in Millhaven, Ont.
"It was just weeks ago that I was released. There was nothing but clouds in the sky, the world seemed sick and pale and it cried tears that froze upon touching the asphalt of the parking lot where you guys waited. I almost slipped as I took my first steps as a free man, but I caught my balance when my little son flew through the air and into my arms. We all hugged, then we all drove away from the prison, and then the sun came out, as if the world was telling me it was happy to have me back," he wrote in his last dispatch to the paper on March 30, 2016, having been released weeks prior.
A relative of Mr. Vivar, Joe Flaco, posted on Facebook that his cousin, was shot four times and managed to run up the hill near the baseball diamond.
His cousin also wrote that Mr. Vivar started the classes while serving time in a penitentiary, but was trying to change his life.
Images released by the police of the suspect appear to show him participating in the exercise class.
Police say the suspect is still at large and is considered armed and dangerous. He is described as black, dark complexion, with short cornrows hanging out of his baseball cap, 25-30, thin build, 5'8"-5'9". He was wearing a black baseball cap, black hoodie with a white logo in the centre, black sweat pants with a light logo on left front hip area, light-coloured running shoes, and dark sunglasses with gold trim on the arms.
Police are still searching for the gunman.
A portion of the park is currently closed as police investigate.
Editor's note: An earlier digital version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the gang Alejandro Vivar was allegedly the leader of, it is 'Latino Americanos Gang' not 'Latinos Americanos Gang'. As well, it stated that Mr. Vivar served time at the Millhaven Institution; however, he served at the Bath Institution. This version has been updated.