Ten dead after van hits pedestrians in Toronto: What do we know about suspect Alek Minassian?

Suspect Alek Minassian is in police custody (Picture: LinkedIn)
Suspect Alek Minassian is in police custody (Picture: LinkedIn)

A 25-year-old man who allegedly ploughed a van into people on a crowded Toronto pavement has been ordered to be held on 10 counts of murder and 13 of attempted murder.

Alek Minassian appeared in court as Canadian authorities and the public sought to make sense of what appeared to be one of the deadliest mass murders in the country’s modern history.

Ten people are dead and 15 are injured after the vehicle mounted a crowded pavement in Toronto, mowing down pedestrians.

Witnesses said the driver was moving fast and appeared to be acting deliberately. Minassian fled the scene and was quickly arrested after a confrontation with police.

While the incident appeared to be deliberate, officials said a motive was not yet clear.

Ten people were killed and 15 injured after the rental van mounted the pavement (Picture: Rex)
Ten people were killed and 15 injured after the rental van mounted the pavement (Picture: Rex)

Minassian showed little overt emotion as he made a brief appearance in a Toronto courtroom in a white jumpsuit and handcuffs. The judge ordered him detained without bond and scheduled the next hearing for May 10.

A police officer was praised for not opening fire on the suspect, who claimed to be armed.

Video broadcast on several Canadian news outlets showed the suspect pointing to what appeared to be a gun and shouting, “kill me”.

However, the officer responds to the suspect’s claims he has a gun by saying, “I don’t care. Get down”.

He was subsequently arrested without shots being fired. Police said no weapon was found.


People sign a memorial near the scene of the tragedy (Picture: PA)
People sign a memorial near the scene of the tragedy (Picture: PA)

Witness Phil Zullo told Canadian Press that he saw police arresting the suspect and people “strewn all over the road” where the incident occurred.

“I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers,” Mr Zullo said. “It was awful. Brutal.”

The driver was heading south on busy Yonge Street around 1.30pm local time and the streets were crowded with people enjoying an unseasonably warm day when the van jumped on to the pavement.

Ali Shaker, who was driving near the van at the time, told Canadian broadcast outlet CP24 that the driver appeared to be moving deliberately through the crowd at more than 30mph, adding: “He just went on the sidewalk.

“He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way he would hit.”

Tributes were laid to those who had died (Picture: PA)
Tributes were laid to those who had died (Picture: PA)

Witness Peter Kang told CTV News that the driver did not seem to make any effort to stop.

“If it was an accident he would have stopped,” Mr Kang said. “But the person just went through the sidewalk. He could have stopped.”

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told a news conference that Minassian was not previously known to the authorities.

He said: “The actions definitely looked deliberate. We don’t rule out anything.

“What we have to do is to follow what we have because it’s very early in the investigation.”

It was reported by Canadian broadcaster CBC that Minassian had no associations with any known terror organisations.

Officers searched Minassian’s home on Monday night.

According to his LinkedIn page, Minassian is a student at Seneca College in Toronto and has developed a number of apps, including one that finds parking spaces in the city.

NBC News quoted police sources and reported that the suspect may have suffered with mental illness.

It also reported that Minassian had been involved in an discussion online about Elliot Rodger, 22, who killed six people near the University of California in Santa Barbara in 2014, before taking his own life.

Ari Bluff told CBC News he shared a computer science class with Minassian at Thornlea Secondary School in Thornhill, north of Toronto, both graduating in 2011.

The van mounted a busy pavement in Toronto on Monday (Picture: Rex)
The van mounted a busy pavement in Toronto on Monday (Picture: Rex)

Mr Bluff said: “I’m not sure if he had any very, very close friends, at least publicly. I never saw him with a group of friends, generally.”

Minister of public safety Ralph Goodale said that it was too soon to say whether the crash was a case of international terrorism and that the government had not raised its terrorism alert.

The incident occurred as cabinet ministers from the major industrial countries were gathered in Canada to discuss a range of international issues in the run-up to the G7 meeting near Quebec City in June.

A senior national government official later said that authorities had not turned over the investigation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a sign that investigators believed it unlikely terrorism was the motive.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathies for those involved.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected,” he said. “We are going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours.”