TORONTO — A man arrested in connection with a deadly van attack in Toronto yesterday has been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder.
Alek Minassian, 25 of Richmond Hill, Ont., is also facing 13 counts of attempted murder. He appeared in a Toronto court this morning.
Candles, flowers and messages of support are being left at the site of the attack, on the east side of Yonge Street just below Finch, where 10 people were killed and another 15 were injured. Police have not yet released the names and ages of the victims.
Minassian was arrested after a brief sidewalk standoff with a lone police officer not far from the site. Mike McCormack, the president of Toronto’s police union says the officer’s actions in arresting the suspect was “one shining moment” in an otherwise horrific day.
The arrest, caught on videos that have been widely circulated on social media, has served as a glimmer of hope for a city grappling with tragedy. In one of the videos, Minassian is heard calling for the officer to kill him, threatening that he has a gun in his pocket. The officer refuses to shoot and tells the suspect to get down.
McCormack says he’s been in touch with the unnamed arresting officer, who he says is overwhelmed with emotion. He says the officer said he was just doing his job, was more worried about the victims than anything else, and that his actions were “no big deal”.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau thanked the first responders on the scene, saying that “they handled this extremely difficult situation with professionalism and bravery.” He also extended his condolences to the victims, calling yesterday’s incident “a senseless attack and a horrific tragedy.”
In a statement made this morning, Trudeau said there is no apparent link to terrorism, and that there is no evidence to suggest there is a “national security element” to the situation.
“All Canadians are with Toronto today – in our hearts, in our prayers and in our thoughts,” he said.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who happens to be in Toronto for a meeting with other G7 national security ministers, says the attack has led to a “very large homicide investigation”, with city police at the helm and every level of government taking part.
Goodale thanked other countries, especially the United States, for their condolences and offers of help. He, too, commended the first responders.
The stretch of Yonge Street where the victims were struck remains closed to traffic and is expected to stay blocked off for several days as police continue what is likely to be lengthy investigation.
A Muslim-Canadian non-profit group called DawaNet, which helped raise more than $800,000 for the victims and their families of last year’s mosque shooting in Quebec, has launched a GoFundMe page for the victims of yesterday’s incident. It has already raised more than $21,000 by this morning.
With file from The Canadian Press