Deputy Chief Peter Yuen praised the actions of the frontline officer who arrested Alek Minassian but asked the public to let the investigation unfold before hearing from him.
Deputy Chief Yuen confirmed that Constable Ken Lam, of 32 Division, was the officer who arrested 25-year-old Alek Minassian whom it’s alleged used a truck to target pedestrians on a busy city street on April 23. He has been charged with 10 counts of First-Degree murder and 13 counts of Attempted Murder.
Lam, who joined the Service seven years ago, and was on traffic response duties when he heard the call and like many other officers rushed to the scene. He made the gunpoint arrest without incident as the man approached him.
There have been hundreds of media requests from Canadian and international journalists seeking to interview Lam. At a news conference at police headquarters on April 25, Yuen explained why Lam will not now be made available to the media.
“As the key witness in a multiple homicide, he will be required to attend court to give testimony,” he said. “Also, it is mandatory that officers who go through a traumatic experience like that be debriefed and provided with after-care. And I will say to you that the Toronto Police Service has the best after-care program in North America. He’s being treated and looked after. He’s being offered all the support an officer can get.”
A Critical Incident Response Team, made up of trained peer support volunteers, was deployed to debrief Service members in the aftermath of the incident and let them know help is available in many forms should they need further support or counselling.
Yuen said Lam, whom he has known for several years, is in good spirits and grateful for the support from the public.
Lam is a member of the East Asian Internal Support network of which Yuen has been a senior advisor for several years.
“I have been in constant contact with him since the incident,” he said. “Going through an incident t like that, he will have high and low days. There are going to be days when he’s going to ask questions of himself and his colleagues.”
Yuen, having had a gun trained on him as an undercover officer in the past, says Lam is experiencing the same sleepless nights and anxiety he experienced.
Lam, Yuen said, also doesn’t want the focus to be on him.
“There were a lot of first-responders who were there that day who looked after a tragic scene,” he said, noting many officers and passers-by are dealing with the trauma of what they witnessed that day. “He’s very selflessly saying he doesn’t deserve all the credit… He wants everyone to know he is not a hero. He was merely doing his job.”
Yuen asked members of the media to allow Lam and his family privacy at this time.
“In today’s age, to find out where we live is not a difficult task,” said the senior officer. “I ask the media to please respect my officer, your officer, the city’s officer’s privacy and that of his parents. He deserves that and I am making that request on his behalf and on the Toronto Police Service’s behalf.'
Lam, 42, was the first officer on the scene to make the arrest near Sheppard Avenue and Yonge Street.
Yuen, like Chief Mark Saunders, attributed the peaceful resolution to the enhanced de-escalation training officers receive at the Toronto Police College.
“Our training is second to none,” he said. “Every year, we have about 30,000 people in our custody and the use-of-force incidents are less than 0.5 per cent. That speaks volumes about our decision-making ability, assessing and cool thinking under stress. Our people are put through rigorous training every year. Our training does work as exhibited by Officer Lam because that could have turned into a very tragic situation for the accused’s family and the officer’s family.”
Since joining the Service, Lam has spearheaded several charitable initiatives.
Last December, he took the entire month off work to raise funds for a friend and fellow officer whose daughter is gravely ill, selling personalized pen boxes.
The son of a former Hong Kong police officer, Lam graduated from university as an engineer and worked for Bell Canada for 14 years before becoming a uniformed officer.