At Thornlea Secondary School, Alek Minassian would sometimes come into the computer lab during class but Reza Fakhteh couldn’t recall him ever speaking a word.
“He’d basically just purr and meow and act like a cat. I never heard him speak,” said Fakhteh, who graduated in 2009. “He’d literally act like a person who was trying to act like a cat.”
Seemingly harmless and innocent, Minassian appeared to live in his own world, he said. “He didn’t talk,” Fakhteh said. “He ran away from girls. If you bothered him, he might hiss at you.”
Minassian, 25, appeared in court on Tuesday charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. Toronto police said a 14th attempted murder charge would soon be laid.
On Monday morning, as Toronto was basking in its long-awaited spring weather, Minassian went to a Ryder truck outlet north of the city and rented a panel van, Det.-Sgt. Graham Gibson said at a news conference.
Then he “is alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook,” the homicide detective said. The brief message read, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun … All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
An Incel is an involuntarily celibate man. Rodger killed six people in California in 2014 and left a manifesto expressing his inability to find a girlfriend and hatred of women.
When Minassian got to the Yonge and Finch area, he proceeded south on Yonge Street “deliberately striking pedestrians on the sidewalk and roadway with the vehicle,” Gibson said.
Police said they received a call about the incident at 1:25 p.m. Seven minutes later, Minassian was arrested and taken to Toronto Police 32 Division. The victims were “predominantly female,” Gibson said.
Police would not comment on Minassian’s motive.
On Facebook, former students of the high school Minassian attended north of Toronto described the alleged killer as a “special needs” student. “He was known to meow like a cat and try to bite people,” a Facebook user named Alexander Alexandrovitch wrote.
Said Fakhteh, “He just seemed like a really innocent kid.”
According to property records, a Richmond Hill home that police attended following Monday’s attack is owned by Vahe and Sona Minassian. A 2009 article in the Richmond Hill Liberal newspaper quoted Sona Minassian saying that her son “lives with a form of autism known as Asperger’s syndrome.” But the article did not name the son and it remained unclear whether she was referring to Alek Minassian.
Following high school, Minassian studied for several years at Seneca College, according to a LinkedIn account in his name. The Department of National Defence said he was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces from Aug. 23 to Oct. 25, but did not complete recruit training and asked to be released after just 16 days.