Zhou Fang told the court “I understand” yesterday when asked about his English comprehension of first-degree murder charges related to a mid-afternoon crossbow killing in a public library.

Fang, wearing an orange jumpsuit, appeared via video link before a justice of the peace in downtown Toronto. His case was put over until Dec. 22.

He spoke with his defence lawyer by telephone.

Fang, 24, from Ottawa, has been in custody since he was arrested in Scarborough last Thursday.

Earlier that day, his father, Si Cheng, was shot in the back with a crossbow and died inside the busy Main Street library, where children were attending an after-school program.

Reports suggest Fang suffered emotional and physical abuse from his father. He and his mother, Nora Fang, had obtained a restraining order against Cheng, according to the woman’s divorce lawyer, Paul R. Krumeh. He said Nora Fang was “extremely fearful” of her husband.

Nora Fang had alleged that Cheng beat her, damaging her eyesight in one eye so badly she could no longer work as a teacher in Toronto, Krumeh said.

Her son witnessed that 2002 assault, for which Cheng was convicted.

Nora Fang and her son went into hiding from Cheng and left Toronto after the couple separated in 2002, Krumeh said.

The couple had emigrated to Canada in 1997 from China, where Nora Fang had been a university lecturer and Cheng had worked as a salesman at a chemical company.