TORONTO -- A Markham, Ont., firefighter has died after being viciously stabbed in the head at a downtown Toronto cafe over the weekend.
Dominic Parker, 45, was stabbed several times while he was at the Rotana Cafe in the Danforth-Coxwell Aves. area around 2 a.m. Saturday.
Emergency personnel rushed him to hospital in critical condition and he died early Monday.
"This is a guy who had a real zest for life, he was a joy to be around," family spokesman Jay Michaels said. "You couldn't help but be cheered up in his presence. It's an absolute shock."
The father of two girls and husband of 23 years was on his way home when he stopped at the cafe for a tea.
Michaels said Parker was attacked by a man he didn't know. Police arrested a 23-year-old man Saturday afternoon.
"Had he died in his vocation, in a fire, there would be rhyme or reason," Michaels said. "Just to be murdered in a completely random, selfish act of violence -- that is the worst part. You're angry. I'm furious."
Michaels said he couldn't understand why anyone would want to hurt one of his best friends.
The attacker "was out to hurt somebody and it just happened to be my friend," he said. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Parker's wife, Zilla, and daughters -- Ryla, 18, and Brenna, 19 -- are stunned by the tragedy, but have been surrounded by family and friends since Saturday.
"Those three girls have ... had arms around them for the last 72 hours," he said. "They are just constantly being hugged, held and taken care of."
Michaels described Parker as a "renaissance man" and a "guy's guy" who decided at age 40 to go to fire school in Calgary. He had already spent time working in the film and television industry, as a bike courier and served as a military reservist in the 48th Highlanders, he said.
"He was not a big guy, but he did it through sheer force of will," he said. "He was the kind of guy, who says at 40, 'Dude, I'm going to fire school.' You believe him and he did it."
Michaels said Parker's fellow students dubbed him "Grandpa" because of his age, but he passed the course through "sheer force of will." When he was hired by the Markham Fire Service five years ago, he found his calling, he said.
"He loved every aspect of being a fireman," Michaels said. "He lived for the bell to go and to help people."
Reaction to Parker's death was swift online. Friend's posted numerous tributes to the fallen firefighter, including sharing a picture of him clad in his fire gear in front of a truck and photos from his time as a military reservist.
Friend Kent Ferguson said he was still struggling with the news. He grew up with Parker in Toronto and reconnected with him online a few years ago. He's not surprised by the outpouring of love.
"I know it sounds cliché but he really was one of those people that people were better for having met," Ferguson said. "I'm not surprised at the outpouring of emotion on his Facebook page, he really was one of the special ones."
A funeral service was being planned.
Nabil Huruy was initially charged with attempted murder, two counts of carrying a concealed weapon and one count of carrying a dangerous weapon. Charges were upgraded on Monday to first-degree murder.