Boxing Day

Investigators warn it could be months before they determine cause of Sotto Sotto fire

Laura Pedersen / National Post

Investigators on Sunday picked through the rubble of two popular Italian restaurants destroyed by fire on Christmas Day, but warned it could be days or weeks before the fire marshal is able to come to any firm conclusions about the blaze.

Sotto Sotto, an intimate restaurant well-loved by the celebrity set — especially during the Toronto International Film Festival — was gutted by a three-alarm fire on Thursday. Spuntini Ristorante & Bar, which sits above Sotto Sotto, was also severely damaged.

“From the outside, it doesn’t look as bad. Most of the brick is still up,” said Toronto Fire Captain Mike Strapko. “But the roof collapsed into the interior. The interior has collapsed and the structure has slipped down.”

Heavy equipment is being used to pick away at some of the heavier remnants of the building, which will allow investigators to determine the fire’s cause and, crucially, it’s source.

“It’s going to be a slow process,” he said. “The investigators are still in there now. This is considered to be in the early stages of the investigation.”

Laura Pedersen / National PostToronto Fire Services at the scene of a fire that destroyed Sotto Sotto and Sputini restaurants in Toronto on Friday.

It could be days, even months, before officials determine the cause of the fire.

Sotto Sotto owner Marisa Rocca promised to rebuild the landmark eatery in a Boxing Day statement: “We are heartbroken over the loss of our restaurant that has been a part of the Yorkville neighbourhood, history and culture for more than 22 years,” it wrote.

Sotto Sotto opened to middling reviews in 1993, but soon became a popular spot for celebrities visiting Toronto on the film festival circuit.

Pictures of celebrities enjoying a meal at the eatery first started popping up in the gossip pages only months after it first opened.

It was beloved for its intimate, tucked-away vibe and was known as a good place to stake out expensive cars, which were frequently parked on the street in front of the entrance.

Laura Pedersen / National Post

Laura Pedersen / National PostThe remains Sotto Sotto and Spuntini restaurants on Friday.

The loss of the restaurant has already been bemoaned by TV personality Kevin O’Leary and rapper Drake.

Other famous clientele have included Oprah Winfrey, Johnny Depp, Whoopi Goldberg and Anthony Hopkins.

The 116A Avenue Rd. destination was tucked inside a historic brick building that sat just a few blocks north of some of the city’s major hotels.

Ottawa’s year of the gun: Gunfire at outlet mall marks the city’s 46th shooting of the year — the most in its history

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia News

Shoppers and security guards roamed the Tanger Outlet Mall on Saturday, one day after the Boxing Day shooting that appears to be the result of infighting between members of the ‘Crips’ gang.

Police remained on the hunt for two suspects in connection with the shooting Friday afternoon. Officers had arrested two men Friday night, but they were later arrested without charge.

What police described as a “targeted” shooting shut down the mall early on the busiest shopping day of the year.

All five men involved in the incident are known to police.

The victim, who was unco-operative with officers, was shot in the foot in a shopping alley of the outdoor mall flanked by Polo Ralph Lauren and Beauty Box. He was released from hospital Saturday afternoon.

Saturday evening, investigators continued to pore over surveillance footage from mall security cameras, and were planning to speak with more witnesses throughout the evening.

Tanger Outlet Mall general manager Eric Topolnisky said Saturday that security at the mall has been increased by by four to five security officers, as well as one vehicle patrol. The increased security presence will be in place through the holiday season, after which time mall management will re-evaluate.

“In response to this particular event, just to make people feel even more secure, we want to make sure to be sensitive to how people feel about it,” he said.

Topolnisky said company policy did not allow him to specify exactly how many officers were on duty, although he did say that the mall normally increases its security presence by two to three officers through the holidays.

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia NewsOttawa police responded to a Boxing Day shooting at the Tanger Outlets in Ottawa on Friday.

“We have an increased security presence over the holidays anyway just to accommodate an increased volume of people.”

Topolnisky said that the mall was busier than normal on Boxing Day because it is “obviously the biggest retail day of the year for most Canadians in retail.”

“We were definitely dealing with tens of thousands of people throughout the day, not at a specific time but for the day in total,” he said.

Although investigators haven’t identified a motive for the shooting, it appeared to be infighting between Crips gang members.

“They are part of the same gang, so it would appear that there would be some infighting,” said Staff Sgt. Kenneth Bryden of the Ottawa police guns and gangs unit. “That would be the way of street gangs today.”

The shooter only fired one shot from a .40-calibre handgun.

“This was not a random event. This was definitely a targeted shooting. We believe the person who did pull the trigger had an intended target,” said Bryden.

“This has kind of given us an idea of where we’re at today with organized street gangs and crime groups that are conducting their business in a public forum.”

The incident marked the 46th shooting this year in Ottawa, the most in the city’s history. The shooting happened around 3:42 p.m. Friday and sent shoppers running in a panic on Boxing Day afternoon and saw some stores lock their doors and order shoppers away from front windows, as heavily-armed police officers searched for suspects in any car leaving the mall. Police found the casing from a .40-calibre bullet at the scene.

Bryden said the men released Saturday morning remain “persons of interest” who may be brought back in for further questioning. Investigators were continuing to look for two more men involved in the shooting.

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia News

Mike Carroccetto / Postmedia NewsOttawa police responded to Boxing Day shooting at the Tanger Outlets off Huntmar Rd. in Ottawa on Friday afternoon.

“We still have two persons of interest that have not been spoken to by police that we believe were at that scene or involved in that incident,” Bryden said.

Tanger management decided to close the mall around 6 p.m. “in support of and out of compassion for the employees currently working,” police said in a release. Police blocked off vehicular traffic into the mall, only permitting parents in to pick up their children who had been out bargain hunting.

Tanger management officials could not be reached Saturday for comment about the shooting, or additional security measures taken in the wake of the incident.

On Saturday, the doors to the stores were open, the number of shoppers appeared usual for a Saturday, according to mall workers, and there was no trace that hours earlier the area had been a crime scene.

“I’m pretty determined not to be scared of things,” said shopper Ian Chapman, who had planned to be at the mall Friday afternoon until word of the shooting spread. “We’ve got to carry on and not let these types of things change us and that’s kind of the attitude of have with this.”

Debbie Baker said she was a little nervous to come to work in one of the food trucks outside the mall, but said she couldn’t see a shooting similar to the one on Friday happening again.

“Once I got in my car and got here it was fine,” she said. “I still think this place is safe. I think it was just something isolated and…I’m hoping it never happens again.”

With files from Meghan Hurley and Allison McNeely, Postmedia News

Ottawa outlet mall cordoned off after Boxing Day shooting leaves one person with minor injuries


A single shot fired in the outdoor area of an Ottawa outlet mall during Boxing Day has sent one person to hospital with minor injuries in what police are treating as an isolated incident.

The shooting occurred on an pedestrian walkway at the Tanger Outlets mall in the city’s west end around 3:45 p.m Friday, said Staff-Sgt. Rick Keindel.

He said the victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries and is in stable condition.

Keindel said police are looking for at least one suspect but it’s not believed there is a gunman on the loose.

“It’s not an active shooter situation. It seems like an isolated thing.”

“Just one shot was fired. One person was injured. The people (suspects) they’re still not there actively doing anything.”

Keindel said about a dozen officers have cordoned off the area and are looking for at least one suspect. He said police are trying to figure out if the shooter has fled.

“They’re checking vehicles as they leave the mall.”

It’s not an active shooter situation. It seems like an isolated thing

He said no weapon has been recovered at the scene.

Local media reported that shoppers weren’t being allowed into the mall.

Keindel said witnesses are being interviewed and that investigators will be looking into any available surveillance footage of the shooting.