A Toronto police deputy chief speaking for the officer who arrested the suspect in a van attack that left 10 dead and 14 injured says the constable is appreciative of the public’s support, but doesn’t want to be described as a hero.
“He wants to thank the public. He wants the public to not call him a hero. He’s officer Ken Lam. He’s real,” Deputy Chief Peter Yuen told reporters on behalf of Lam Wednesday afternoon, adding Lam said he wants all first responders to get credit.
“He’s got a name. He’s got a badge. He’s not a hero. He wants every officer to be known as that.”
Just before 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Toronto police said 25-year-old Alek Minassian rented a van and drove it to the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area. Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson said on Tuesday the accused drove south on Yonge Street “striking pedestrians on the sidewalk and the roadway with the vehicle.”
Minassian eventually pulled over on a side street near Yonge Street and Sheppard Avenue. He was arrested by Lam, who is being praised for trying to de-escalate the situation and for not using a weapon. Lam could be heard on video giving direct commands to get down on the ground and rejecting calls from Minassian to shoot him.
Yuen said Lam was not available to speak with the media because “he’s the key witness of a multiple homicide” and will need to attend court to give testimony. He described the attack a “life-altering” incident for Lam and said he is currently off duty as part of an after-care program.
He said he met with Lam in person Tuesday morning and texted him Wednesday morning. Yuen added that he had a traumatic experience decades ago and has been working with Lam to help him process the attack.
“His pattern was exactly the same as mine — he could not sleep. He would sleep for an hour and then he wakes up. I said to him, “Do you wake up in a cold sweat?’ He said, ‘I did.’ How do you know, Peter?’ I said, ‘I know,'” Yuen recalled.
“‘Do you wake up feeling… anxiety? He said, ‘Yes I did.’ I said, ‘I know that because I did.'”
Yuen, who described Lam as a friend that he knows through an internal east Asian officer network, said he first got to know Lam because of his charity work.
“He’s selling stuff to raise money for Cops for Cancer, special Olympics, anything that’s required, he’s there. You don’t even have to ask. He happens to have a nose for charitable organizations,” he said, adding Lam likes to do engravings of police challenge coins and replica police vehicles.
“They all know Kenny Lam. He is the guy who sells stuff. They’ll call me and say, ‘Is that the guy who sells stuff?'”
Yuen said they bonded because they both come from a similar background. He said both of their families immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong with the hope of a better life. Yuen said both of their fathers owned restaurants. He said Lam previously worked as an engineer for 14 years before joining the Toronto Police Service in his mid-30s. Lam has been an officer for seven years.
During the news conference, Yuen said officers have to go through three days of “rigorous” training annually. He said Lam’s response is a clear example of what officers are taught to do.
“A lot of times, we’re asked by a lot of groups, ‘How do we know our training works?’ Well folks, our training does work because it was exhibited by officer Lam,” Yuen said.
“Training was the most important component coupled with the fact that we have a competent officer who was on the street patrolling the city of Toronto and brought this matter, for that day, a successful conclusion.”
Meanwhile, Yuen said Lam, who is married and works as a traffic officer in 32 Division, will take things “day by day” before it’s determined when he can return to work. Yuen added Lam will eventually address the incident and his response publicly.