Crown argues Toronto Eaton Centre shooter knew what he was doing

TORONTO — A man who killed two people and injured several others when he opened fire at Toronto's Eaton Centre may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, but prosecutors said Monday that doesn't mean he had no control over his actions.

Crown lawyers said the psychiatric experts who assessed Christopher Husbands agreed he had PTSD but were split on whether he could have been in a dissociative state when he fired 14 bullets in the downtown mall's crowded food court on June 2, 2012.

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In his closing submissions, Crown lawyer John Cisorio said one of the doctors noted that the act of aiming and firing a gun is more complex than what you would expect from someone experiencing dissociation.

Cisorio showed jurors stills from security video that shows Husbands holding a gun with his arms shoulder height, then at a 45-degree angle, then again higher up.

"This was not someone blindly shooting. This was someone who was purposely aiming … He knew exactly what he was doing," the lawyer told jurors.

After the shooting, Husbands ran from the food court and left the mall, Cisorio said.

"He was aware and conscious of the fact that he did what he did and he had to get away," he said.

Defence lawyers told the court Friday that Husbands was in a dissociative state as a result of his PTSD, which was triggered by an encounter with some of the men who had brutally beaten and stabbed him months earlier. They have argued that he should be found not criminally responsible.

Husbands has testified he felt his arms come up and twitch, heard a loud bang and everything went dark.

He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, five counts of aggravated assault, one count each of criminal negligence causing bodily harm and reckless discharge of a firearm.

Two men were killed in the shooting and six others — including a 13-year-old boy who was shot in the head and survived, and a pregnant woman who was trampled by fleeing shoppers — were injured.

Prosecutors have said Ahmed Hassan, 24, died on the floor of the food court while Nixon Nirmalendran, 22, died in hospital nine days later due to complications from a bullet wound.

Court heard Nirmalendran was one of the men who ambushed Husbands and stabbed him more than 20 times in February 2012.

The Crown has argued Husbands sought revenge against his attackers and carried out the shooting as a form of "street justice."

"He wanted Nixon to feel the same pain…and he was going to make sure Nixon was dead," Cisorio said Monday.

Far from threatening Husbands, the group was moving away from him in the food court, Cisorio argued.

"There was no threat to Mr. Husbands on June 2 — it was Mr. Husbands who was the threat," he said.

The fact that Hassan was not involved in the stabbing and was "killed by mistake" does not absolve Husbands, whose actions were "consistent with someone who wanted to kill," the prosecutor said.

He also noted Husbands did not tell anyone he had experienced dissociation in the aftermath of the shooting.

"These murders had nothing to do with PTSD but had everything to do with payback," Cisorio said. "He was in total control from beginning to end."

Jurors have heard Husbands faced a previous trial, but were not told the outcome or the reason for a second trial. They are expected to begin their deliberations on Thursday.

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