The driver of a white rental van who is alleged to have “deliberately” run down pedestrians along a northern stretch of Yonge St. in the Canadian city of Toronto on Monday, killing 10 and injuring 16, has been identified as a 25-year-old man from Richmond Hill, a small town close to the metropolis.
Alek Minassian was arrested by Toronto police at 1:52 p.m. — 26 minutes after the first 911 call came in alerting police to the horror unfolding during Monday’s sunny lunch hour.
A thorough check through Toronto police records did not return any results, meaning Minassian was not previously known to police, said Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders, who flew in from New York to supervise the police response.
No charges against Minassian have been laid and the police investigation has not ruled out terrorism, though Saunders stressed there is no evidence that national security is threatened. Police, including the OPP and the RCMP, are “looking very strongly” at the motive.
Witness accounts suggest the driver’s actions were not accidental, Saunders said. They indicate that as the van drove south down Yonge St., at some points it mounted the sidewalks, while at others it drove southbound in northbound lanes.
“So it’s very clear just from a general perspective to say that the actions definitely look deliberate,” Saunders said. Saunders revealed little else about the man.
A LinkedIn profile for a man of the same name states he is a student at Seneca College. According to Joseph Pham, 25, who took a computer programming class with Minassian at Seneca, he was at school just last week. He described him as “socially awkward.”
“He kept to himself. He didn’t really talk to anyone,” Pham said.
A source with information confirmed that three of those who were injured attended Seneca College’s English Language Institute. Two suffered minor injuries, while one was taken away in an ambulance, status not known.
As the sun set on Elmsley Dr. in Richmond Hill, a brick home connected to Minassia was surrounded by police tape on both sides, the road blocked off. Neighbors congregated, taking pictures of the scene and speaking to each other.
In the hours after the incident, witnesses posted videos on social media showing police apprehending the driver. Shortly before the arrest, the suspect points what appears to be a weapon at police, and seems to say, “kill me” and that he has something in his pocket.
The officer tells the man repeatedly to get down. A few seconds later the suspect raises his arms and is apprehended by police. No shots were fired. Saunders later said the man did not have a gun.