A 25-year-old man has been charged with 10 counts of First-Degree Murder and 13 counts of Attempted Murder after it’s alleged he used a truck to target pedestrians on a busy city street on April 23.
Alek Minassian, of Richmond Hill, appeared at the 1000 Finch Ave. W. courthouse on April 24 and was remanded in custody.
At a news conference at police headquarters, Detective Sergeant Graham Gibson said it’s anticipated that a 14th count of Attempted Murder will be laid shortly, following further investigation.
Gibson said it’s alleged the accused rented the panel-style white cargo van, earlier that day, from a north Toronto facility, then made his way to the area ofFinch Ave. and Yonge St. around 1.30 p.m.
“As has been reported in the media, the accused is believed to have posted a cryptic public message on Facebook minutes before he began driving the rented van southbound on Yonge St. and onto the crowded sidewalks,” Gibson said. “He drove, deliberately striking pedestrians on the sidewalk and roadway with his vehicle.”
The accused was arrested by a Toronto Police constable in the area of Yonge St. and Sheppard Ave.
Gibson said the very detailed investigation is ongoing.
“Because the accused has been charged, I am restricted from discussing any evidence involved in the investigation, including any questions pertaining to motive,” he said. “I want to thank the witnesses and members of the public who were in the area of the offence and who immediately rendered assistance to those who were injured.”
Chief Mark Saunders said the accused was arrested seven minutes after Toronto Police Service Communications the initial 9-1-1 call.
A 32 Division officer made the arrest without incident.
Saunders attributed the peaceful resolution to the enhanced de-escalation training officers receive at the Toronto Police College.
“It’s a focal point of our training piece,” the Chief said. “The way in which that arrest went down is nothing short of remarkable.”
He also encouraged people who were traumatized by witnessing the event to seek help, noting Victim Services Toronto, a non-profit organization, is free to anyone. They can be reached at 416-808-7066.
Dr. Dirk Huyer, the province’s Chief Coroner, said his office has not confirmed any of the identifications of the deceased.
“We are working to do that work carefully,” he said. “We sympathize with the families and clearly recognize the significance of those and their friends who are desperate to understand and to know the true identities of those who have died. I will tell you that identifying the victims is our number-one priority… We also have to ensure that we are completely accurate when we do this. So we are balancing the need to know with the desire to know quickly to ensure that we have 100 per cent accuracy. That takes time and that time can be very frustrating. When we have tragedies of such multiple numbers and complexity, it is very challenging.”
Huyer said there is a team comprising forensic pathologists, forensic anthropologists, coroners, dentists and scientists working together to devise a plan.
“Having said that, I don’t believe that we will be confirming names for certainly a number of days,” he said. “When we do, we will release those in a respectful way after the families are notified.”
Mayor John Tory, a member of the Toronto Police Services Board, attended the news conference and expressed his sympathy to those who lost loved ones in the mass tragedy.
He said he’s entirely satisfied that every resource is being used during the investigation and that everything is being done as quickly as possible.
Tory also said the tragedy has brought out the best in people, with many seeking ways in which they can make contributions.
“We are seeing a great deal of generosity of spirit and we are also seeing generosity that people want to express in other ways in terms of providing some degree of support for the families that have been affected,” he added. “People want to help, they want to do something.”
Gibson thanked the business community, EMS, Fire Services and the hospitals that treated the injured, Victim Services and the Office of the Coroner, for their assistance. He also acknowledged policing partners in York Region, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for their assistance with the investigation.
He assured the families of the deceased and injured that Toronto Police is working hard to ensure a thorough investigation is completed.
Gibson also made an appeal to members of the public and the business community in the affected areas.
“If you have video of the incident, or witnessed the event and have not spoken to investigators, I ask you to reach out as soon as possible to the Homicide Squad or 32 Division,” he said.
The Toronto Police has a portal on their home page for members of the community to upload any video evidence they may have obtained, along with their contact information.
“Investigators will be reaching out to witnesses and surviving victims in the near future to follow up with the investigation,” Gibson said.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the investigative hotline at 416-808-8750. For anyone who suspects a family or friend may have been a victim, please contact the Missing Family/Friends Hotline at 416-808-8085. Anyone with video or photos immediately before, during or after the homicides, can upload them at torontopolice.on.ca/yongefinch