National Column: A big ask: have pity for shooter’s family

Reading Time: 4 minutes

by Rosie DiManno

A tombstone: One child.

A freshly dug grave: Another child.

A hospital room, its occupant forever oblivious, somewhere in the hovering world between life and death: Another child.

How any family can bear so many tragedies is beyond imagining.

With the added burden of two murders and multiple wounded, some grievously, wreckage inflicted by a son who then turned the gun on himself.

It is a big ask, I know, but spare a shred of pity for the ruins of the Hussain family.

They buried a 17-year-old daughter, Faiza, in 2001, killed when ejected from a car that collided with a van.

They buried a 29-year-old son, Faisal on Wednesday, immediately after the body was released by the coroner’s office, a source told the Star.

They have all but buried the other son, Fahad, who has been in a persistent vegetative state on the fourth floor of D Wing at Sunnybrook hospital with little brain activity following a drug overdose last summer.

Fahad Hussain brought calamity upon himself but it’s a misery familiar to too many families, entangled with drugs and trafficking. Arrested first in Saskatchewan, then again in Toronto after allegedly failing to comply with bail conditions, charges either stayed or withdrawn in the past year. His surety, the man with whom Fahad was compelled to reside with while on bail, was subsequently charged last September when police found 33 guns and other prohibited devices, such as overcapacity magazines, at his Pickering home. Also seized was 42 kilograms of a substance identified as the deadly street drug carfentanil, an opioid synthetic, according to documents obtained by the Star. It is up to 100 times more toxic than morphine and can be fatal in tiny amounts.

The Hussain family has lost its anonymity along with everything else. Private traumas have been cracked open for media and public scrutiny.

Faisal Hussain did that to them when he decided to fire and reload, fire and reload, shooting at innocent victims along Danforth Ave. on Sunday night, killing a teenager and a child.

That scarcely limits the magnitude of the horror he wrought.

Two patients who required life-saving surgery remain in critical condition at St. Michael’s Hospital.

“Their lives were saved and doctors have paved the way for their recovery,” said hospital spokesperson Michael Oliveira, “but they’re still critical, which means their condition can change at any time.”

A female remains in serious but stable condition at Sunnybrook. One patient is at Michael Garron Hospital. Several victims have been treated and released. Whether severely injured in Faisal Hussain’s carnage or just brushed by tragedy, disaster measured by inches, those lives will never be the same again. The city will recover, already has – as it should, because Toronto canít be defined by its worst days. But nothing will fill the emptiness of a child lost to random malice.

The shooter may have been mentally unbalanced – certainly thereís enough evidence, anecdotal and documented, of a deeply troubled mind, an individual who alarmed teachers and neighbours by the things he said, incidents of self-harm and a purported obsession with guns. While ISIS, or Daesh as the death cult terrorist group is also known, has predictably recruited Hussain posthumously as an adherent, investigators haven’t disclosed any radicalization link, if such even exists. Which Iím not about to take on faith from anonymous sources or doctored photographs on hate-spewing anti-Muslim websites.

Conspiracy theories have lassoed the entire Hussain family, pouring disdain on a statement they issued Monday which described their son as someone suffering from “severe mental health challenges,” who’d long struggled with psychosis and depression.

That wouldn’t necessarily rise to the level of “not criminally responsible” in a Canadian courtroom, which is a narrow legal definition. But Faisal Hussain is dead and won’t ever face charges, anymore than his brother would have been capable of facing prosecution if the charges against him hadn’t disappeared.

Muslim community activist Mohammed Hashim may have helped craft that statement, but so what? Its contents hardly served to deflect shame, minimize or rationalize the tragedy. Yet it’s been seized upon to not-so-subtly demonize Hashim and the family. In any event, Hashim is no longer relaying information from or to the Hussains.

“Yesterday, the family buried Faisal and I know the weight of everything that he did and what’s happening around them is all starting to become very heavy on them,” Hashim told the Star in a Thursday email. “I know some of them hadn’t slept in days until after his burial yesterday. Last night, when I made contact, they were clear that they are no longer willing to engage.”

Video that captured Faisal Hussain taking a controlled, two-handed shooter’s stance certainly suggests some tactical expertise with weapons. He needn’t have gone to a firing range or terrorist training camp to have learned that. Impossible to tell from the images if he had a disordered mind.

Yet some are straining to make Hussain fit a hypothesis which, at this point, is just a tissue of conjecture. It is wicked to the bone.

We know precious little that is factual, not even yet confirmation of where the family originated, although they did visit Pakistan a few years ago. Are they first-generation immigrants? If so, this was surely not the Canadian dream they’d envisioned.

But just as we donít visit the sins of the father on the son, we canít visit the sins of the son on the father and mother. Not until there’s some damn convincing evidence of an ideological malignancy bred in the blood.

Meanwhile, there is communal strength in compassion, too.

Twitter: @rdimanno
Copyright 2018-Torstar Syndication Services

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