When gunshots rang out during Monday’s celebration for the NBA champion Toronto Raptors, Steve Kern was among those who ran toward them.
Kern is a volunteer with St. John Ambulance and a sergeant-major with the Canadian Armed Forces’ 39 Signal Regiment in Vancouver. He has worked in law enforcement for 35 years. He was also among the first on the scene in Toronto when four people were shot and in need of help.
Kern, who was on vacation at the time, had gone down to watch the parade and was standing across the street from Nathan Phillips Square around 3:30 p.m.
“The crowds were very big. Lots of people,” he recalled Tuesday.
Kern figured the shots had come from a handgun, rather than a shotgun or rifle, and he determined they had originated from across the street.
Around him, people were seeking cover. Ahead of him, many in the huge crowd turned heel and started to run, pushing and shoving to get away from the area.
“I headed in the direction of where the shooting sounds came from. I just put my hands in front of me and just sort of weaved through the crowd as they were heading in the other direction,” he recalled.
Kern stood on a cement block to get a better view and saw two injured people on the ground not far from him. One victim was already being treated by paramedics. He went to the other victim and helped a doctor, a nurse and a pair of officers provide her with basic first aid. After an ambulance arrived, Kern helped get the victim into the vehicle.
Among the many photographs taken on Monday was one that captured Kern, dressed in a light-coloured plaid shirt and wearing a hat and sunglasses, kneeling over the victim he helped.
Asked whether he was concerned for his own safety, Kern said: “No. I was cognizant of the dangers around us. The Toronto Police were very fast to respond in large numbers, and they created a perimeter with both metal fencing and yellow tape and themselves around us so we could have the space that we needed to treat the patient and have a successful outcome.”
Kern was in Toronto on his way back from France, where he had attended the D-Day commemorative ceremonies earlier this month. While there, he also assisted someone who he saw was in distress.
Kern’s next stop is Ottawa, where on Saturday he will be recognized in the Senate as a serving member of the Order of St. John. That award is not connected to the help he provided Monday, but for assistance he has provided others in the past.
“I’m a magnet for this stuff. Things like this just happen to happen around me,” he said.
Kern said he never stopped taking first aid training and he encouraged others to pursue courses of their own.
“Everyone should be taking training from St. John Ambulance so that they don’t have to be bystanders. They can help when it’s safe to do so. No one needs to be like me and run toward the shooting. I’m still in emergency responder mode, and that’s not expected of the general public.”
Monday’s shooting left four people with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds. Police arrested three people and recovered two guns, but are still looking for one more suspect and a third gun.