|Toronto van attack|
|Location||North York City Centre, North York, Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Date||April 23, 2018 |
1:22 p.m. (EDT)
|Weapons||Ryder Chevrolet Express Van|
The Toronto van attack was a vehicle-ramming attack that occurred on April 23, 2018, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A man, alleged to be Alek Minassian, drove a rented van and sped through the North York City Centre business district, deliberately targeting pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring 16, some critically.
The attack started at the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue and proceeded south along the sidewalks of Yonge Street to near Sheppard Avenue. The 25-year-old Minassian was arrested uninjured just south of the crime scene after attempting to provoke a police officer to kill him. The arrest was made at 1:32 p.m. EDT, seven minutes after the first 9-1-1 call reporting the incident was made. The incident is the deadliest vehicle-ramming attack in Canadian history.
The first 9-1-1 call reporting pedestrians being hit was received at 1:25 p.m. Eastern time. At Finch Avenue, a white Chevrolet Express van, rented from Ryder, ran a red light, then drove southbound on the west-side sidewalk of Yonge Street, striking multiple pedestrians. The van continued along the sidewalk for several more blocks striking additional pedestrians. Security camera video from a local business shows the van reaching Tolman Street, which is one block south of Finch Avenue, at 1:24 p.m. A witness said the driver looked the victims directly in the eye during the attack and acted as if he was "playing a video game, trying to kill as many people as possible". At one point, the van re-entered the roadway but at Park Home Avenue, the van drove onto the sidewalk once again hitting pedestrians along the sidewalk in front of Mel Lastman Square, a civic plaza on the west side of Yonge Street, 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) south of Finch Avenue (16 blocks).
Paramedics were dispatched immediately to the site and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre was activated as an emergency centre. Nine people died at the scene and fifteen were injured. At 8:15 p.m., the Toronto Police Service (TPS) announced that a tenth person had died. Sunnybrook treated ten victims. The hospital reported that two persons arrived without vital signs and were pronounced dead on arrival, five were in critical condition, two serious and one in fair condition.
A single police officer in traffic control capacity, TPS constable Ken Lam, intercepted the damaged van, which was stopped on the north sidewalk on Poyntz Avenue, just west of Yonge Street and two blocks south of Sheppard Avenue, about 2.3 kilometres (1.4 mi) south of where the attack began. Lam stopped his cruiser near the van and confronted the suspected driver, later identified as Alek Minassian, standing near the opened driver-side door.
During the confrontation, Minassian repeatedly drew his hand from his back pocket and pointed a dark-coloured object toward the police officer as if it were a pistol. Lam ordered Minassian to drop to the ground, while Minassian tried repeatedly to provoke the officer to kill him, saying "in the head!" when the officer warned him he may be shot. Lam then went to his cruiser and turned off its siren. As Minassian and Lam advanced towards each other, the officer recognized that the object in Minassian's hand was not a gun, holstered his pistol, and took out his baton to avoid the use of unnecessary lethal force. Minassian then dropped the object from his hand, lay down on the ground and surrendered to Lam. He was arrested at 1:32 p.m.
|Born||November 3, 1992|
|Residence||Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada|
|Criminal status||Detained, awaiting trial|
|Years of service||2017|
Police identified the suspect as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, who had no prior criminal history. According to his LinkedIn profile, he was a student at Seneca College in North York from 2011 to 2018 and lives in Richmond Hill. Minassian had attended Sixteenth Avenue Public School, an elementary school in Richmond Hill, in a special education class. He was a software and mobile app developer. His former classmates at Thornlea Secondary School in Thornhill described him as "not overly social" and "harmless". Minassian attended a special needs class for students within the autism spectrum while at Thornlea Secondary; Minassian's mother is quoted as saying in a 2009 article that her son has Asperger syndrome.
In late 2017, Minassian enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces for two months, before requesting voluntary release after 16 days of recruit training. A senior military official said that Minassian "wasn't adapting to military life, including in matters of dress, deportment and group interactions in a military setting" and "there were no red flags and nothing that would point to anything like this."
Following the attack, a Facebook post attributed to Minassian circulated online, which indicated he may have identified himself as an incel ("involuntary celibate"). The state of involuntary celibacy refers to being unable to find sexual partners and its subculture consists of primarily male online communities. The post, dated to shortly before the beginning of the attack on April 23, read:
Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!
4chan is a popular but controversial Internet imageboard. "Chad" and "Stacy" are nicknames used on incel-related forums and on the /r/incels subreddit (banned since November 7, 2017) on Reddit to refer to popular, attractive, sexually active men and women; a subreddit is an individual community on Reddit based on a topic of interest. The term "Incel Rebellion" is sometimes used interchangeably with the term "Beta Uprising" or "Beta Male Uprising", which refers to a violent response to sexlessness, which incels view as sexual deprivation. Elliot Rodger was the mass murderer behind the 2014 Isla Vista killings in California. Rodger intended to target attractive women and sexually successful men, which led to him being posthumously idolized by some people on misogynistic online fringe communities, including several incel websites. Facebook verified the account as Minassian's. A source in the Department of National Defence told media that C23249161 was Minassian's military identification number during his army training.
On April 24, Minassian appeared without a lawyer before the Ontario Court of Justice in a Toronto courthouse, shackled and wearing a white prison jumpsuit. He was charged with 10 counts of first degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder and ordered not to contact any of the alleged attempted murder victims. His father, Vahe Minassian, attended the hearing and cried. He told reporters that he had not spoken to his son. Minassian was charged with three additional charges of attempted murder on May 10: a total of 16 counts. He has since retained Toronto criminal lawyer Boris Bytensky to represent him. His trial is scheduled for February 2020.
Toronto police reported the majority of victims were female, but that there was no evidence women were deliberately targeted.
Minassian was also charged with the attempted murders of Robert Anderson, Amir Kiumarsi, Aleksandra Kozhevinikova, Mavis Justino, Morgan McDougall, Jun Seok Park, Samantha Peart, So Ra, Catherine Riddell, Sammantha Samson, Beverly Smith, Amaresh Tesfamariam and Yunsheng Tian. Two men who left the scene after being hit were later identified by police from dashcam footage and charges of their attempted murders are anticipated, as is a sixteenth.
The Toronto subway and bus services in the area were immediately closed or rerouted by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). Parts of Yonge Street were cordoned off until late on April 24 for the police investigation. Civic buildings in the area were closed late April 23 and remained closed throughout April 24. Area businesses were allowed to remain open, but in areas of pedestrian deaths, those fronting on Yonge Street were allowed access from only the rear entrances. Many businesses in the most-affected areas chose to close down for all of April 24, while some opened at different times of the afternoon of April 24. The area was fully open and transit services resumed by April 25.
Security was heightened around a meeting of G7 security ministers being held in Toronto in advance of the 44th G7 summit in La Malbaie, Quebec. The ministers were briefed on the attack shortly after it occurred and the day after the attack, the meeting's agenda included discussion on "soft targets", terrorism and social media, and online youth radicalization.
Around the Air Canada Centre, roads were closed and blocked off with dump trucks, due to safety concerns for fans gathered at Maple Leaf Square to watch the National Hockey League playoff game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins on the evening of April 23. A moment of silence was observed during the game in sympathy for the victims.
Concrete barriers were put up along the edge of the sidewalk along Bremner Boulevard in front of the Rogers Centre, due to the same safety concerns prior to the Toronto Blue Jays game against the Boston Red Sox on April 24, 2018. Prior to the game, the Blue Jays honoured a few of the first responders in a ceremony, which included a video memorial for the victims of the attack followed by a moment of silence.
Many domestic leaders expressed their support and condolences in the immediate aftermath of the attack, including Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Toronto Mayor John Tory added that the city would support the police investigation.
Constable Ken Lam was lauded as a hero for his measured use of force to achieve a non-fatal resolution of his confrontation with Minassian, despite Minassian's seeking suicide by cop. Lam insisted that he was simply performing his duty.
Lighting at the CN Tower and the 3D Toronto sign at Nathan Phillips Square were colourless and dimmed for the evening of April 23. Flags were placed at half-mast at most government locations in Toronto and surrounding municipalities.
An impromptu memorial at Olive Square Park on the east side of Yonge Street, directly across the street from where the attack began, was started by a local resident at 5:15 p.m. of the same day for people to place flowers and express their grief in writing. The person who started the memorial indicated that all the other public spaces along Yonge Street, including Mel Lastman Square, were cordoned off by police tape so he chose Olive Square which was not cordoned off. Small memorials ranging from a few bunches of flowers to about two dozen bunches of flowers, plus paper messages, photographs and candles in some cases, were established at each location from just south of Finch Avenue to just south of Park Home Avenue where a pedestrian was killed (at the southwest corner of Yonge Street and Park Home Avenue two victims were killed). Next to the fountain at the entry to Mel Lastman Square, where the greatest number of people were struck (at least two killed) another memorial gradually grew to become a hub memorial almost as large as the one at Olive Square.
Several crowdfunding campaigns were set up to raise money for the expenses of the victims' families. Prominent Canadian Muslim charities included Islamic Relief Canada and Canada Zakat, that raised funds after the Quebec City mosque shooting, collected large numbers of donations. To better coordinate crowdfunding, the City of Toronto established the #TorontoStrong Fund to support victims and their families, first responders, and those affected by trauma. The hashtag was reused in memoriam of the victims of a fatal mass shooting that occurred in the Danforth on July 22 of the same year.
Several vigils were held in the following week. A small vigil was held at Lastman Square on the evening of April 24. Another was held by the Toronto Korean Community Association on April 27 at Lastman Square. The "#TorontoStrong" vigil was held by the City of Toronto on April 29, attended by several thousand. It began with a march from Yonge and Finch and ended with a gathering at Lastman Square. Speaking at the gathering were community leaders and attending were Prime Minister Trudeau, Governor General Julie Payette, Premier Wynne, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, and Mayor Tory.
The impromptu memorial was decommissioned on June 3, 2018, and later replaced with a temporary plaque. Mayor John Tory announced plans to erect a permanent memorial for the attack.
On June 13, 2018, the #TorontoStrong's volunteer steering committee announced the appointment of former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall as fund administrator. She was tasked with distributing the money raised for the victims and survivors.
By December 2018, over $4 million from the fund had been distributed to victims and families of the van attack and the Danforth shooting.
Minassian was ordered not to have contact with any of the 13 attempt murder victims and when asked if he understood, he sharply said, "Yes."
"Incel" is short for "involuntarily celibate." It's a movement made up almost entirely of men who claim they "can't have sex despite wanting to," according to incels.me
Alek’s father, Vahe Minassian, was also there, sitting in the front row as the charges were read against his son. Vahe was stunned and cried inside the courtroom. [...] He told reporters that he had not spoken to his son, and he appeared heartbroken.
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