SIU clears officer who shot Vaughan condo mass shooting gunman

By

Published April 17, 2023 at 7:31 pm

The York Regional Police officer who shot the gunman responsible for the Vaughan condo mass shooting last winter was justified in using lethal force to protect himself and others, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has found.

Around 7 p.m. on Dec. 18, Francesco Villi, 73, began to prowl the halls of the Bellaria Residences condo building on Jane Street in Vaughan armed with a legally purchased 9mm Beretta semi-automatic pistol. He went to three apartments on multiple floors during his attack.

Ultimately he shot six people, killing five, before he too was shot and killed by a responding York Regional Police officer. The victims included; Rita Camilleri, 57, Vittorio Panza, 79, Russell Manock, 75, Helen Manock, 71, and Naveed Dada, 59. A sixth victim, an unidentified 66-year-old woman, was seriously injured.

Villi is believed to have targeted members of the condo’s board with whom he had significant conflicts stretching back years. Three of the victims sat on the condo’s board and the sixth victim was married to the board’s director who was in the apartment at the time of the attack.

Previously, Villi, who had lived in the building since 2010, had sued the condo board. “As I understand it, Mr.Villi believes that the electrical room which sits beneath his unit is improperly constructed, resulting in the emission of electromagnetic waves which have caused him significant pain and suffering over the years,” Justice Joseph Di Luca wrote in his decision to toss the suit in July 2022. He also alleged an attempt to cover up the “torture” at the behest of the building’s developer.

In the months after his lawsuit was dismissed as “vexatious” and doomed to fail, Villi seemed to grow increasingly delusional as seen in posts on his now-locked Facebook page. He frequently shared his belief Satanic influences had shifted the courts against him. Additionally, he continued to document his worsening health online, including graphic images of expectorated phlegm, which he believed was caused by the electrical room.

Meanwhile, the condo board worked to have Villi evicted from the building. He was set to appear in court on Dec. 19, the day after the rampage.

Around 2:30 a.m. Dec 18. Villi posted a final video lamenting the situation. Hours later around 7 p.m. Villi began his attack. According to the SIU, York Regional Police was inundated with 911 calls reporting an active shooter in the condo at 7:20 p.m.

The SIU said one of these calls was from a victim who later succumbed to his injuries while another came from the husband of the sixth victim. Numerous police officers were dispatched to the building, including the one who would ultimately shoot Villi, dubbed the Subject Official (SO) in the SIU report.

The SO was among the first wave of officer to reach the condo. He found the elevator inoperable, so took to the stairs in order to search each floor one-by-one. The officer soon came across Villi in the hallway of the first floor.

According to the SIU, Villi was trying to get back into his apartment when the SO found him. Villi had his back to the officer and the SO at first though he was just a resident trying to get back inside.

The officer, called out “Hey” to Villi to get his attention. Next, Villi, his back to the officer, walked several steps down the hall away from the SO. Villi then turned counter-clockwise to face the SO revealing the pistol in his right hand.

Once he spotted the pistol, the SO aimed his Glock 22 at Villi. He ordered Villi to drop the Beretta and remain still. However, “made it clear,” the SIU said, that he would not follow the SO’s order and told the SO to shoot him.

The SO responded that he did not want to shoot Villi and ordered him to drop the gun again. Instead Villi raised his right hand, “as if to point it” at the SO. The officer then fired four shots at Villi, striking him twice in the torso.

Villi stumbled to the right, dropped his gun, then leaned on the hallway wall before he collapsed to his left. Other officers heard the shots fired and rushed to the hallway where they began first aid and CPR. However, Villi could not be resuscitated and died.

The SIU was called into investigate Villi’s death shortly thereafter at around 9 p.m. They sent out four investigators and two forensics experts who arrived shortly before 11 p.m. They interviewed the SO and a Witness Official (WO), and reviewed the notes of five other WOs. They also combed through 911 call recordings, police radio recordings and the building’s security cameras.

After a monthslong investigation SIU Director Joseph Martino released his conclusion on Apr. 17, 2023. He found there were “no reasonable grounds to believe that the SO committed a criminal offence in connection with the shooting.”

“The officer was acting in pursuit of his duty to protect and preserve life when he responded to the condominium building, following 911 reports of an active shooter, to do what he could to prevent further harm coming to citizens at the hands of [Villi],” Martino wrote.

“Confronted by a male at a distance of several metres, armed with a gun having just used it to shoot at multiple persons, it is hard to imagine what else the SO could have done in self-defense once the Complainant raised his gun in the officer’s direction,” he continued.

INsauga's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising