Toronto van attack suspect charged with 10 counts of 1st-degree murder, 13 of attempted murder
Alek Minassian, the 25-year-old man suspected of killing at least 10 people and injuring 14 others, when a rental van he was driving struck pedestrians on Yonge Street in north-end Toronto, has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder during a court appearance on Tuesday.
Minassian of Richmond Hill, Ont., arrived in court wearing a white prison jumpsuit and hands cuffed behind his back.
READ MORE: What we know about suspect Alek Minassian
The accused, after hearing his charges, was remanded into custody and is scheduled to reappear in court via video on May 10. Judge Stephen Waisberg said Minassian is not to have contact with the victims.
Police have said the suspect wasn’t known to authorities and they have yet to confirm a motive.
Toronto police homicide squad Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson told reporters during a news conference Tuesday afternoon the accused rented a van from a Ryder location north of Toronto shortly before the attack. He then drove to the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area before 1:30 p.m. on Monday.
“The accused is alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook minutes before he began driving the rented van and he drove it southbound on Yonge Street and onto the crowded sidewalks,” he said.
“He continued to drive southbound on Yonge Street deliberately striking pedestrians on the sidewalk and the roadway with the vehicle.”
Minassian was arrested near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue minutes after the first call came to officers. Police said a cellphone was seized from the suspect.
Global News obtained a Facebook message on Monday of the accused praising the “Incel Rebellion” and California mass-killer Elliot Rodger, just before carrying out the Yonge Street rampage.
“The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” reads the post. “We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
Facebook confirmed to Global News it removed Minassian’s post Monday.
Gibson said it’s anticipated a 14th count of attempted murder will be laid after further investigation. Police revised the number of injured on Tuesday to 14 people from 15.
He said the victims are predominately female and the victims’ ages range from their 20s to 80s. Gibson said there was no evidence the accused was deliberately targeting women.
Dr. Dirk Huyer, Ontario’s chief corner, said officials haven’t confirmed any of the victims’ identities. He said it will likely take several days to make positive identifications.
“We have to ensure we’re completely accurate when we do this. So we’re always balancing the need to know and the desire to know quickly to ensure that we have 100 per cent accuracy, and that takes time,” he said noting the high number of deceased and injured victims and the complexity of the incident.
“We are actively obtaining (medical-related) records. We have notified families and told them we believe tentatively that their loved ones have passed, but we have also provided great caution in that and therefore we will not be releasing any of those names until we fully understand it.”
Chief Mark Saunders thanked surrounding police services for sending additional collision reconstruction investigators to help process multiple scenes along Yonge Street. He said police are looking to shrink the footprint of the scene still blocked off on Tuesday.
Saunders said the impact of the attack will have a long-lasting impact on many.
“This is a toll that will last forever. The magnitude of where this occurred is something that also is a concern. The well-being of my officers and the civilians at the front end taking the calls in and having to deal with it,” he said when asked how he felt when he got the news of the attack
Police pleaded for residents with any information to contact the Toronto police homicide squad, 32 Division or Crime Stoppers. Officers asked anyone in the area with video of the attack to forward it to police.
Saunders also encouraged anyone who needs someone to talk to about the attack on Monday to call Victim Services at 416-808-7066.
“I don’t want people walking away thinking, ‘I need help but I can’t afford it’ or ‘I need help but I wasn’t a part of this investigation,” he said, noting there is no cost.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in Ottawa that he spoke to the premier and the mayor on Monday and that there is no indication to suggest the attack is an issue of national security.
“At this time we have no reason to suspect there is any national security element to this attack, but obviously the investigation continues,” Trudeau said.
“The events that took place yesterday in Toronto were a senseless attack and a horrific tragedy. On behalf of all Canadians I offer my deepest heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of all those who were killed and we wish a full recovery to those injured and stand with the families and friends of the victims.”
Identity of Toronto van attack suspect
According to Minassian’s LinkedIn page, he had been a student at Seneca College studying computer software development.
The accused was also a brief member of the Canadian Armed Forces for two months in 2017. A spokesperson said he did not complete the recruit program and was voluntarily released after 16 days of training.
Following the attack, police closed the 2.2 kilometre section of Yonge Street for the investigation and officers cordoned off the suspect’s home in Richmond Hill.
A neighbour told Global News the community is multi-ethnic and people often keep to themselves.
“Quiet family. Very rarely seen. The young man occasionally I would just see him going in and out of the house,” resident Wes Mack said.
“The neighbourhood itself is very quiet. Very little interaction between neighbours. Very multi-ethnic. Everybody does their own thing.”
Police officers were seen Tuesday lined up along Yonge Street to scour for evidence.
VIDEO: Dozens of officers scour Yonge Street as investigation continues
First of 10 murder victims identified
Global News confirmed Tuesday that one of the 10 people killed in the attack has been identified as Anne Marie D’Amico, who was employed at Invesco Canada.
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those impacted by this tragic event. I can now confirm that unfortunately one of our employees has succumbed to her injuries,” Invesco Canada President, Peter Intraligi, said in a statement.
“Out of respect for her and her family, we will not be providing any further comments.”
Police have not yet released the names and ages of the other victims. But court documents obtained by Global News identified the 13 alleged attempted murder victims as Sammantha Samson, Samantha Peart, Morgan McDougall, Mavis Justino, Catherine Riddell, Aleksandra Kozhevinikova, Robert Anderson, Amir Kiumarsi, Yunsheng Tian, Jun Seok Park, Amaresh Tesfamariam, So Ra and Beverly Smith.
Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the incident to call their investigative hotline at 416-808-8750. A web portal has also been set up for people to submit photos and/or videos.
A separate hotline for anyone missing a friend or family member is 416-808-8085.
VIDEO: Toronto councillor speaks to Anne Marie D’Amico’s family, says they’re living a ‘nightmare’
A makeshift memorial has been set up along Yonge Street where residents have been leaving flowers and candles and writing messages of support and condolence on large cardboard squares.
“I woke up this morning thinking about the victims. This is a Korean/Persian neighbourhood and to know that a lot of these victims could have been myself or someone that I love, I was just kind of hoping to find out more information about the victims as well,” resident Jude Park said.
Well-wishers wept as they struggled to make sense of the violence that shattered the peace of a usually bustling neighbourhood that regulars describe as a safe haven.
“You feel for this community considering that you live here, you shop here, you laugh with the people here, you go out here,” said neighbourhood resident Don-Antonio Andrew. “It’s a very traumatic time for this area and for your neighbourhood.”
Political leaders respond to van attack
Trudeau said Canadians should not feel threatened following the attack but admitted the country is not immune to acts of mass violence.
“Obviously, we need to continue to reflect on the changing situations in which we’re in and do everything we can to keep Canadians safe but we cannot as Canadians choose to live in fear every single day as we go about our daily business,” he said.
“We need to focus on doing what we can and what we must to keep Canadians safe while staying true to the freedoms and values that we all as Canadians hold dear.”
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to his country’s northern neighbour Tuesday morning.
“I also want to express our deepest sympathies to the Canadian people following the horrendous tragedy in Toronto that claimed so many innocent lives,” Trump said at a White House ceremony. “Our hearts are with the grieving families in Canada.”
VIDEO: Trump and Macron offer their support to Canada following Toronto van attack
Toronto Mayor John Tory also commended the work of first responders and the civilians who aided the wounded.
“Over recent years we have all watched in horror in the aftermath of attacks on innocent cities, in other cities, around the world,” Tory said in a speech to city council members on Tuesday.
“It is something for which our police and our city staff and all the other first-line responders here in Toronto have prepared, but it’s not a moment that you ever believe will happen in the city that we all call home.”
“The people who call this city home are shaken and we mourn together, but we are not broken and we will not be broken.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne said that while legislators were all reeling from Monday’s incident, they felt it was important to carry on with the democratic process.
“We have to ensure that this kind of senseless act doesn’t define us,” Wynne said. “We owe it to the people of the province to reassure them that this is a safe place that we live in, because it is.”
Former Toronto mayor Mel Lastman also released a statement on Tuesday calling the attack “an absolute tragedy.”
“My heart goes out to those that lost their lives, those that were injured and to the individuals in Toronto who lost their loved ones. These innocent lives will never be forgotten,” Lastman said.
“Toronto has incredible responders, and there are no words to describe my appreciation for their efforts. These responders are heroic and brave.”
Tory announced during Tuesday’s news conference at Toronto police headquarters that the City of Toronto is partnering with the Toronto Foundation to create the #TorontoStrong fund, which will provide funds to support the victims and their families.
“The #TorontoStrong Fund will identify organizations and agencies to benefit from these donations in a coordinated, accountable manner. These include Victim Services, who provide emotional support and practical assistance to cover the cost of emergency expenses for survivors, their families, families of the victims, and witnesses and their families,” a statement on the Toronto Foundation website read.
“The City and Toronto Foundation will also work with the many generous individual efforts that have emerged to mobilize support, to ensure that this compassionate response can be directed where it is needed most.”
A Muslim-Canadian non-profit group called DawaNet, which helped raise more than $800,000 for the victims and their families of last year’s mosque shooting in Quebec, has launched a GoFundMe page for the victims of the Toronto incident. It had raised more than $78,000 by early Tuesday afternoon.
Yonge Street reopened to traffic before 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Many businesses and office buildings along the corridor are also closed. There’s no timeline when the businesses will reopen.
VIDEO: Toronto police are calling Monday’s van attack a deliberate act, but haven’t ruled out terrorism at this time. A national security analyst explains what the difference between the two are.
— With files from Adam Frisk, Catherine McDonald and The Canadian Press
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