The man behind the tragic death of 10 pedestrians has been identified and taken in by the police for questioning. Alek Minassian, 25, was not previously known to authorities, police said, adding that the incident appeared deliberate although no motive was clear.
Minassian mounted his van on a curb on Yonge Street between Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue at about 13:30 local time, driving into pedestrians over a distance of around 1km. He was arrested when a police officer managed to get hold of him – he fought back, threatening the officer, saying he was armed while pointing what looked like a gun at him. The officer was praised for capturing the man without opening fire, remaining patient and holding his ground as Minassian shouted "kill me" after the officer instructed him to get down.
The accused is due in court at 10:00 local time on Tuesday. Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, called the incident a "senseless attack and a horrific tragedy" and praised the police officers who faced Minassian without apprehension. One witness at the scene told City News that the driver was "hitting anything that comes in the way. People, fire hydrants, there's mailboxes being run over," said the witness, who said he was driving behind the van during the incident. The police managed to stop the van several streets away but it was too late and pictures of the aftermath show bodies covered in sheets along the destructive path.
Not much is known about the nature of the event or the suspect himself as he was previously unknown to police. Toronto Police Chief, Mark Saunders, said "The actions definitely looked deliberate," but authorities confirmed that there "would appear to be no national security connections."
Canadian broadcaster, CBC, cited government officials as assuring Minassian was not associated with any known terror groups. He had previously enrolled in a special needs school north of Toronto and, reportedly, exhibited strange behaviour in his school years. He would often be seen walking around Thornlea Secondary School with his head down, hands clasped tightly together while making meowing noises.
However, his strange behaviour had never evolved into violence and a former classmate said: "He wasn't a social person but, from what I remember, he was absolutely harmless." Another former student, Ari Bluff, told CBC that Minassian did not seem to have many friends. "I remember seeing him probably just walking down the halls, usually by himself, or in the cafeteria by himself," he said. Minassian then moved to Seneca College in the North York area of Toronto and had been described as "quite brilliant" by people who had previously known him, with former students saying Minassian was good at working with specialised computer chips used to process images.
Police have only been able to identify one victim who tragically passed away, Anne-Marie D'Amico, who worked for the US investment company, Invesco. A South Korean foreign ministry official confirmed that two of its citizens were among the deceased victims. The 15 injured remain in hospitals throughout Toronto. Van rental company, Ryder System Inc, confirmed that one of its vehicles was involved and said it was co-operating with authorities.
The White House released a statement saying that the US "stands with the Canadian people" and offering "any support Canada may need".