TORONTO (AP) — A 73-year old man who had a long-running dispute with his condo board in a suburb above Toronto killed five people, including three board members, after he claimed in court and on social media that the building’s electrical room was making him sick.
Chief James MacSween of the York Regional Police identified the suspect in Sunday night’s attack in Vaughan, Ontario, as Francesco Velli. He said at a news conference Monday that Velli fatally shot three men and two women and wounded a 66-year-old woman, who is hospitalized and expected to survive.
“Three victims were members of the condominium board,” he said.
Police said officers were called to an active shooting at the building at around 7:20 p.m. Sunday, and that an officer fatally shot Velli inside the building, where Velli and the victims lived.
Velli long claimed vibrations and emissions from the building’s electrical room were making him sick, and that board members and the building’s developer were to blame, court documents show.
MacSween said police are still investigating the motive for the attack, which occurred at three separate units in the building.
Special Investigation Unit spokesperson Kristy Denette said police found the victims on different floors. She said Velli had a semiautomatic handgun and that investigators don’t believe he exchanged fire with the officer who killed him.
On Sunday and in the days leading up to the attack, Velli posted rambling videos on Facebook in which he talked about having a legal dispute with the condo board.
In the videos, he claimed to have health problems caused by the building’s electrical room. The posts include recordings of phone conversations he had with lawyers about his case. In one video he posted Sunday, the lawyer for the building noted that the condo corporation had asked him to sell his unit and move out.
“This tragedy is driving me insane. I’m ill anyways,” he said.
The lawyer noted there was an online court hearing in his case scheduled for Monday and that he needed to go to the condo management office, where the manager would help him log in.
Velli claimed during the call that he was not prepared to present his case at the hearing. He also asked what the board wanted from him, to which the lawyer said it needed him to stop harassing and shouting at people, and to pay the condo corporation’s legal fees. She noted that the case had dragged on for years.
“Can I die in peace? (It’s been) seven years of torture,” Velli said.
In one video, he said: “They want me dead. You can take this body but never this soul. .. I am ready to die.”
Velli had filed a lawsuit against six directors and officers of the board in 2020 alleging that they “committed acts of crime and criminality from 2010 onwards.”
He also accused them of deliberately causing him five years of “torment” and “torture” related to issues he had with the electrical room below his unit, court documents show. Justice Joseph Di Luca tossed the lawsuit this summer, calling it “frivolous” and “vexatious.”
According to court documents, the board sought a restraining order in 2018 against Velli for his “allegedly threatening, abusive, intimidating and harassing behavior” toward the board, property management, workers and residents.
Resident John Santoro said Monday that he knew Velli had a firearms acquisitions certificate but that he didn’t know if Velli actually owned a gun. He said he also knew about Velli’s issues with the condo board.
“I know the history and I know the man. I know the board of directors. I know this has been brewing for a long time. And I’ve commented to my wife several times that this is going to end very badly,” Santoro said.
“This is tragic because in my opinion he was failed by the courts. He was failed by the lawyers and he was failed by the condominium corporation because if you go off his social media clearly you’ll see that this man required professional help.”
Santoro, a former board member, said the condo corporation had put pads on the electric room equipment so that when it vibrated it wasn’t directly on the concrete.
“He wasn’t a monster,” Santoro said. “He was very religious and very giving. I just think he got caught up in a situation that ended up very badly for everybody.”
Mass shootings are rare in Canada, and Toronto has long prided itself as being one of the world’s safest big cities. Vaughan is just north of Toronto.
Canadians are nervous about anything that might indicate they are moving closer to the gun violence situation in the U.S., where mass shootings are common.
“Everybody is horrified,” Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said. “To wake up to this news this morning or see it last night, we are in absolute shock. … This is something I never thought I would see here.”