A rifle cracks, a woman is saved
Crowds watched as drama unfolded
Sugston Anthony (Tony) Brookes holds Nicole Regis, a 20-year-old bank intern, at gunpoint during yesterday’s standoff in front of Union Station. Regis was shaken but unharmed after police shot and killed Brookes as hundreds of horrified commuters looked on.

1. 8 a.m.: A woman in the food court is approached by her estranged husband armed with a sawed-off rifle. He fires but misses. He hits her with the gun then flees. 

2. The man, who has been spotted by a police officer, runs east along Wellington St. and south through an alley beside the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. 

3. Confronted by the officer, the man flees to the south side of Front St. in front of Union Station, near a hot-dog stand. 4. 8:10 a.m.: He grabs a woman, holding the rifle to her head. Emergency Task Force officers arrive, try to negotiate. 

5. Shot dead: At 8:52 an ETF marksman shoots suspect in the head, killing him. The hostage is unhurt Police snipers: Shooter on the GO concourse ramp may have taken fatal shot, with a rifle pointed through a wrought-iron fence.



Aug. 27, 2004


Morning rush hour in one of the busiest parts of the city.

Not a sound could be heard a hundred metres from the scene: no traffic, no voices, the silent whirring of police lights the only motion.

Not even the pigeons stirred from their perch atop Union Station.

Emergency Task Force officers crouched behind cruisers and other vantage points surrounding the unfolding drama, their handguns and assault rifles trained on the hostage taker.

Then, a single police sniper's bullet ended the tense standoff yesterday morning, leaving one man dead and his hostage, 20-year-old Royal Bank intern Nicole Regis of Ajax, apparently unharmed.

But the bloodshed had begun about 50 minutes earlier in the food court of the Toronto-Dominion Centre around 8 a.m., where the gunman, Sugston Anthony (Tony) Brookes, 45, allegedly shot at his estranged wife, Marlene Cynthia Brookes. He missed but then assaulted her with the rifle and fled on foot. Marlene, 45, was taken to St. Michael's Hospital, where she is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

A young uniformed officer heard a call over his police radio and saw a man leaving the TD building who matched the description of a man who had assaulted a woman inside, a police source told the Star.

The officer followed Brookes — who appeared to be unaware of him — toward Union Station, through a stairwell to the parking area at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel, the source said. While in the parking lot, the officer's radio sounded, attracting Brooke's attention.

"The officer was just 10 feet away from the suspect. The suspect spins around and draws his gun," the source said.

As police are trained to do, he then yelled he was a police officer and ordered Brookes to drop his weapon, a sawed-off rifle, according to the source. Brookes ignored the officer's commands.

On the south side of Front St., amid the crush of pedestrian traffic, Brookes snatched Regis at random as she walked near a hot-dog stand and held a gun to her head, witnesses said.

"He saw the cop chasing him. He turned around and heard a call for other backup. He stood there and grabbed the first person he saw," said Oroosh Sheikh, a 21-year-old Scarborough man who had just parked his car in front of Union Station and saw the drama unfold. "She was walking by the hot-dog stand. It wasn't sudden. It was very slow. He stood next to her and put his arm around her neck. She was confused. She didn't even know what was going on until she saw a gun next to her head."

Again, the officer told Brookes to drop his gun, but he did not respond.

"For the most part he (the suspect) was non-responsive. He made a few utterances.... The officer was trying to protect the citizens out there ... by engaging (the suspect) and keeping him focused on the officer," the police source said.

Officers with the Emergency Task Force arrived at the scene minutes later, the source said. For more than 30 minutes, Brookes pointed his gun at Regis' head or at the officers, refusing to free his hostage or negotiate with police.

Police cordoned off Front St. between York and Bay Sts., while throngs of commuters and office workers gathered behind the yellow tape on both sides.

Sue Prestedge, manager of program acquisitions for CBC-TV sports, had just said goodbye to her husband and was walking up the ramp out of the GO station. "I rounded the corner and I'm staring at police cars and officers with their guns drawn. Your mind doesn't start to compute right away. Then I saw the back of the gentleman who had the gun. The police started screaming at everyone, `Get back in the building, get back in the building.'"

Brookes, dressed in a white short-sleeved shirt and gray pants, held the gun to Regis' head with his right hand while holding her in a headlock with his left. One police officer told an inquiring bystander, "There's a guy with a shotgun down there." A witness who saw the drama play out from his bird's-eye view in his room at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel said the weapon appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun.

Regis and Brookes stood on the south side of Front St., often facing east."He was really nervous, I could tell that. She was quiet, she had her mouth covered the whole time. She didn't say anything. She didn't really move," said Sheikh, who continued to watch from inside the hotel. "He was looking both ways. He was really confused."

At 8:52 a.m., a single shot shattered the eerie silence, echoing off the buildings. The man crumpled to the sidewalk. Some witnesses speculated that the shot came from the hostage taker's right, somewhere between him and Union Station.

"He stepped back for a second," Sheikh said. "That's when they shot him."

While Brookes' body lay near a hot-dog stand and garbage bin, emergency workers surrounded Regis and ushered her to an ambulance. Dressed in blue jeans, fuchsia shirt, dark jacket and white sneakers, she appeared physically unharmed but in shock, mouth agape in a nervous smile as she stepped into the ambulance.

At the scene, police Chief Julian Fantino said police had no choice but to shoot and kill the gunman, who was threatening his hostage, the police and other citizens.

"The officers did their job, they did it professionally," Fantino said after touring the scene. "It's a regrettable, unfortunate outcome, obviously, the taking of a life under any circumstance, but at the end of the day these officers did their job.

"I mean, there was no choice."

Fantino praised the efforts of the young police officer who, after spotting Brookes, "engaged" him and kept him in his sights until ETF officers arrived.

An orange tarp was placed over Brookes' body, where it remained for several hours as the Special Investigations Unit conducted its investigation.

With files from Dale Brazao, Curtis Rush and Tarannum Kamlani