Toronto van massacre: What we know

2018-04-25 12:38
A man writes a message at a memorial near the site of the deadly van attack in Toronto, Ontario. (Geoff Robins, AFP)

A man writes a message at a memorial near the site of the deadly van attack in Toronto, Ontario. (Geoff Robins, AFP)

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The suspect in a driving rampage that left 10 dead and 14 injured in Toronto – Canada's biggest city – was charged with murder and attempted murder on Tuesday.

Alek Minassian, 25, made a brief court appearance to hear the charges against him.

Here are is what we know so far about what the government is calling a deliberate attack:

The carnage

Just before 13:30 (17:30 GMT) on Monday, police received an emergency call reporting pedestrians had been struck by a vehicle on busy Yonge Street in the center of Toronto.

A white rented van sped along that street and up onto the sidewalk at lunchtime for about 1km.

Within seven minutes of the emergency call, the suspect was arrested near where the van had been abandoned, its front bumper smashed in.

Ten pedestrians were killed and 14 others injured, some in critical condition.

Several of the victims were identified in court documents. Two South Korean nationals and one Jordanian were among the dead.

The first to be publicly named was Anne Marie D'Amico, who worked at a nearby investment management company.

Her family called her a "shining light", saying: "We hope that in this time, people fight with the same altruism (she had) rather than anger and hatred."

The driver

Police identified the van driver as Minassian, from a Toronto suburb.

The suspect lived with his father and attended a Toronto vocational school. His classmates described him to local media as withdrawn and rather awkward.

His mother once told a local community paper her son suffered from a form of autism known as Asperger's syndrome, while protesting cuts to mental health services.

At the time of his arrest, he was behaving strangely and holding some kind of object in his left hand as police squared off with him, according to photos seen on social media.

Police handcuffed the man as he lay on the ground.

In his first brief court appearance, Minassian, who has an imposing physical build and a shaved head, wore a white police jumpsuit.

The motive: 'Deliberate' but why?

Authorities said Minassian had no police record, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale downplayed a theory of a terror attack such as those carried out by extremists in London, Nice and other major cities, saying there was "no discernable connection to national security".

Police said they hoped their questioning of Minassian would shed light on his motive.

The city's police chief Mark Saunders said his "actions definitely looked deliberate", adding that the driver jumped up onto the sidewalk as well as driving erratically on the street.

Toronto Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, told a city council meeting on Tuesday: "People are scared, they are unsure of what happened or why."

"We do not have all of the answers," he said, "and they may not come for some time."

Anger at women

So far police have revealed that the victims were "predominantly women" and that Minassian had posted a "cryptic message" on Facebook minutes before the assault in Toronto.

In the post, Minassian praised mass killer Elliot Rodger – a 22-year-old American who murdered six people and then killed himself in California in 2014, and who had professed frustration over his virginity and women rejecting him – as a "supreme gentleman".

The suspect's now-deleted post also referred to the "Incel Rebellion" – "incel" is short for "involuntarily celibate" and is often used in connection with online groups of men who are known to rant against women.

"We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!" the post read, monikers used in the community to describe people who have no trouble finding sexual partners.

Online conversation forum Reddit last November banned a subsection of its site that catered to sexually frustrated men – who blame women for their celibacy – for "violent content".

But numerous incel forums remain active on Reddit in addition to many other sites.

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