There is, it seems, no safe haven from violence any more. But Toronto’s subway system is generally considered very safe. Considering it carries more than a million passengers every day, its record of getting commuters from one place to another in one piece is fairly impressive.
In fact, the TTC, for all its problems, has won numerous awards over the years for its safety record. But the shooting at Osgoode Station on Thursday is a grim reminder that no system is perfect and those with menace on their minds can certainly afford the price of a token.
Here’s a look back at some other rare incidents that have brought sirens screaming to the underground and police and ambulances heading to the scene.
A simple case of being jostled on board a crowded subway car led to an exchange of words and a woman being shot. There were about 40 or 50 people on board the northbound train as it came into Spadina station. Police say the senseless incident began when a woman trying to get onboard the train got into an argument with a group of young males. She allegedly pulled out a knife and when one of the teens saw the weapon, he’s accused of pulling out a gun and shooting her in the leg.
The suspects fled but were caught on system security cameras. An 18-year-old was arrested and a warrant issued for two more suspects.
It happened around 11pm when three men become involved in a fight on the bus platform of the Main Subway station on the Bloor-Danforth line. The dispute escalated and kept raging until one of the combatants pulled out a gun and opened fire, hitting one of his adversaries in the chest. The victim was seriously hurt but didn’t suffer life threatening injuries. All three men were last seen running southbound on Main St. away from the scene.
Four people are stabbed at the Christie Subway station. One of them is a 13-year-old boy, who is knifed in the neck and left a paraplegic. A nationwide warrant is issued for two men believed responsible.
A man waiting for the first subway car of the day at College Station was stunned when a complete stranger suddenly pushed him onto the tracks. Fortunately, he was able to get up and return to the platform before the cars roared into the station. A homeless man was being sought.
Police have noted a raft of iPod thefts since the device became available and began warning riders to be aware of people trying to steal them while they were on the trains. A 17-year-old found out the hard way how valuable their advice really was, after she was approached by three men as she got off a train on the Bloor-Danforth line around 9:30pm.
The suspects followed her to a remote exit, pushed her to a secluded spot and one of them then choked her until she gave up the MP3 player. She was seriously hurt and required hospital treatment, but she survived.
Two people got into an argument on the platform at Finch Subway station and one allegedly pulled out a knife and began slashing at his opponent. When a Good Samaritan came to intervene, he wound up suffering wounds of his own.
The suspect then caught a passing train and disappeared. With nothing but a grainy video still from a security camera to go on, police released the picture to the public and asked for their help. The pressure turned the trick and a 30-year-old Toronto man surrendered to officers several weeks later.
Not all the incidents that happen on the subway involve guns. Knives can be just as dangerous. And the troubled Kennedy Station has been the scene on many occasions. In this notorious case, a 16-year-old was stabbed in the back as he was waiting for a bus. Police later released pictures of the wanted man, who was caught on camera fleeing the scene.
As TTC service was shutting down at the end of the day, a lone occupant of a subway car stayed on the train at Kennedy Station. When cleaners entered the compartment at the end of the line, they were stunned by what they found. Nick Brown had been stabbed to death and was left alone to die late at night onboard that lonely and deserted car.
Officials would later release grainy pictures of a suspect seen fleeing from the area and waited for the tip that would help lead them in the right direction. Less than a week later, it came and John Paul Vallon was arrested and charged with second degree murder.
Not all attacks on the system involve traditional weapons. In at least one case, the train itself has been used as a potentially deadly instrument. Charlene Minkowski was waiting for the subway at the busy Dundas subway station when 41-year-old Herbert Cheong snuck up behind her.
As the train roared into the station, Cheong stepped forward and pushed the startled Minkowski directly into its path. She was run over and died later that night in hospital.
Cops were stunned by the random and motiveless attack and say the killer was looking for any female he could find. Cheong was charged with first degree murder, but eventually confessed to a lesser second degree charge. The diagnosed schizophrenic eventually received a long term sentence, with no parole possibility for 15 years.
As for the motive for his actions? He told the court he’d been kicked out of his rooming house that day and was angry – so he decided to take his rage out on a perfect stranger.
One of the most notorious incidents on the TTC forever shattered many people’s perceptions that the system was immune to violence. Subway conductor Jimmy Trasewski was working some voluntary overtime at the Victoria Park station when a man attempted to rob him.
The father of two was attacked, tied up, robbed and stabbed, before the suspect fled. But he didn’t get away cleanly. Security video caught the entire gruesome crime on tape and four months later, police in Miami found Adrian Kinkead. It was later discovered that he had also been responsible for the brutal murders of two Toronto sisters, Marsha and Tamara Ottey.
He was convicted in 1997 and is serving 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole.