The flashing police lights are gone and a small flower memorial is growing outside of a Vaughan highrise tower where a mass shooting took the lives of three members of the condo board and two of their spouses, leaving another resident hospitalized.
“Our home has been taken from us,” said John Di Nino, a board member whose wife, Doreen Di Nino, has been in hospital with serious injuries since the horrific events unfolded Sunday evening at one of a cluster of high-end towers known as the Bellaria Residences.
“Our life has changed, and we will never have any sense of normality where we go, where we walk, how we live,” Di Nino told the media on Tuesday, adding that he hopes the focus will be on the murder victims, not the perpetrator.
Those victims include an open-hearted realtor, whose family is mourning him in Pakistan, the grandfather of a young defenceman for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and other residents who volunteered their time on the condo board out of what Di Nino said was a desire to serve their community.
It was that service that apparently made them targets for the gunman, Francesco Villi, 73, who waged a long-standing campaign of grievances against the condo board and building management. He was killed by police Sunday evening.
York Regional Police said Tuesday that the five killed in the shooting are: Current condo board members Naveed Dada, 59, and Rita Camilleri, 57; her partner Vittorio Panza, 79; previous condo board member Russell Manock, 75, and his wife Helen (known as Lorraine), 71.
York Regional Police Chief Jim MacSween said those who died were kind, generous and loved their families.
“These are (victims) who had grandchildren,” MacSween said.
“These are people who have loved ones and who were actually killed with their loved ones, their partners … There’s a lot of people that have been impacted by this.”
Speaking to the Star outside Sunnybrook Hospital emergency department, Di Nino said Doreen is in “stable condition trying to recover from her injuries.” He added they “hope and expect a full recovery.”
Panza was the grandfather of 24-year-old Leafs defenceman Victor Mete, a Vaughan native who signed a contract with his hometown team over the summer.
“Our hearts go out to Victor and his family, to all the families and friends of those affected and to the local community,” the team said in a statement confirming the connection Tuesday.
Prior to their game Tuesday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Maple Leafs held a moment of silence for the five victims. They did not mention names, or that one of the victims was Panza, Mete’s maternal grandfather.
When Panza’s partner Camilleri was first considering joining the Bellaria condo board, she sought advice from Marilyn Iafrate, the local councillor who represents the ward where the building is located in Vaughan.
“I wish I’d never done that,” Iafrate said. “I wish she had never gotten on the board. I’m just so devastated because she was such a good person.”
Camilleri was an “incredible woman” and “an advocate for her building and for the people in her building,” Iafrate told the Star.
Fellow board member Dada, a bachelor with family in Pakistan, was a sales representative at iPro Realty. Roy Houshmand, who manages the Mississauga office of the brokerage where Dada worked, remembered him as “a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. Extremely extroverted.”
Dada worked hard to build his real estate business, Houshmand said. He was an avid cricket fan and a keen follower of economic and investment news, according to his social media accounts.
Manock was a family man, said MacSween.
“(He) was the most hardworking, caring, loving father and grandfather who cherished every moment he spent with his family, trusted and loved by everyone who knew him,” MacSween said.
Manock’s wife, Lorraine, was a selfless, generous, kind soul and touched every person she met, he said. Police had earlier identified her as Helen Manock but later said she went by Lorraine.
Abby Bhoombla, who lives with her sister and father in the building on Jane Street near Rutherford Road in Vaughan’s Maple neighbourhood, left the complex for a walk on Tuesday evening for the first time since the killings.
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“We’re relieved it’s over,” she told the Star, recounting how the family huddled in their fourth-floor apartment in the dark for hours after hearing gunshots one level below Sunday evening. Bhoombla added she was thinking of the families and loved ones of the victims.
Camilleri, Dada, Russell Manock and Di Nino were all named in a lawsuit filed by Villi that a judge recently dismissed as “frivolous” and “vexatious.”
Villi was set to have a court date on Monday, at which the condo corporation was seeking to evict him from his unit.
Instead, police were called to the highrise around 7:20 p.m., minutes after Villi started shooting, going door-to-door through three units.
Villi, who was wielding a semi-automatic handgun, was shot by a York police officer on the third floor and pronounced dead by about 8 p.m.
“I can’t believe that it’s not a nightmare, it’s real,” said current board member Tony Cutrone, who was not in the building during the shooting.
In a long series of social media posts and videos, Villi claimed that condo board members were trying to harm him, at one point saying they were “murdering” him for “self-interest and money.”
Throughout his fights with the board, Villi made unsubstantiated claims about his eventual victims — often laden with insults and incomprehensible claims.
His latest lawsuit accused six past and present board members — including Camilleri, Dada and Manock — of perjury, extortion, fraud, criminal harassment, criminal intimidation, defamatory libel and slander.
In the lawsuit he claimed the electrical room below his unit was improperly constructed and said “electromagnetic waves” had caused him pain and suffering over several years.
In court documents and on social media, Camilleri was a particular target of Villi’s ire; she submitted evidence that she had modified her behaviour to avoid him by timing her “exits and entrances to the building when she thinks he will not be there because he has been harassing and threatening her.”
One court document includes an email Manock sent last August to the condo manager, in which he complained Villi “turned and made direct eye contact with my wife, stared at her and called her a bastard. People in the elevator and in the common area witnessed the abusive comment.”
Dada also submitted an email to the condo manager in May of this year complaining that Villi had stared at him and spit on the floor.
“We have been dealing with this on the board for four years. Things could have changed. It didn’t have to get to this point,” Di Nino said. He repeatedly emphasized the need to bolster gun control laws and supports for those struggling with their mental health, saying he would personally advocate for these causes.
“Our family has been put into shambles over a senseless act of violence that could have been avoided.”
The city of Vaughan plans to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims on Wednesday evening at Vaughan City Hall.
Vaughan Mayor Steven Del Duca said he asked facilities across the city to lower their flags to half-mast until further notice in memory of the victims.
With files from The Canadian Press.
May Warren is a Toronto-based housing reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @maywarren11
Ben Mussett is a Toronto-based general assignment reporter for the Star. Reach him via email: email@example.com
Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy
Christine Dobby is a Toronto-based business reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @christinedobby
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