Toronto Police have confirmed ten people are dead and 16 others have been injured after a van mowed down a crowd of pedestrians on a busy street in the city’s downtown district. The alleged driver is now in police custody.
TORONTO Police Chief Mark Saunders has identified the young man who killed 10 people and injured 15 more in a bloody van rampage as a person who was not previously known to authorities.
Saunders identified the suspect killer as Alek Minassian, 25 of Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. Canada.
“The actions definitely were deliberate,” Saunders told a late-night news conference close to the site of the incident in the northern section of Canada’s biggest city.
The vicious carnage — which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “tragic and senseless attack” — was one of the most violent in recent Canadian history.
Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, standing next to Saunders, said: “There would appear to be no national security connections.”
Global Television stated Minassian would appear in a Toronto court at 10am local time on Tuesday (midnight AEST).
“This kind of tragic incident is not representative of how we live our lives and who we are,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told the media.
Downtown Toronto’s iconic CN Tower, which is normally lit up in the evening, went dark on Monday evening out of respect for the dead.
Meanwhile, the police officer who faced-down the murderer Minassian is being hailed as a hero.
President of the Toronto Police Association Mike McCormack told the Globe and Mail that the officer — who was alone when he confronted the alleged mass killer — did exactly as he was trained to do.
“The police officer would have been doing a continual threat assessment,” McCormack stated.
He would have been justified in discharging a firearm & kill the murderer, “but this officer looked at what was going on and determined he could handle it the way that he did. People are right: This officer is a hero.”
Eyewitnesses described the horrific scene as the white van jumped the footpath and continued on the murderous rampage for more than a kilometre, mowing down & killing pedestrians at speeds of 70km/hr.
One witness told local media: “He was just hitting people one by one, he hit every single person on the sidewalk, holy God I never seen anything like this in my entire life … you see it in a war zone. He is going 60 to 70 kms on the sidewalk … this person was intentional, doing this he was killing everybody & anybody… this is terrorism stuff here.”
Toronto Sun arrest video
Mr McCormack said he spoke with the arresting officer, who was in his 30s and has been with the force for more than seven years. McCormack said the officer was a humble and easygoing member of the force and had been “shaken” but composed by the carnage.
“He said, ‘Mike, I just did my job. What I did was no big deal. But look at these poor people,’ ” Mr. McCormack said. “That’s what people are thinking: Great, he did his job and arrested this guy and may have prevented further deaths. But he’s more concerned with 10 people being dead, 15 people being injured, why now and what’s happening in this city.
It’s understood no Australians were involved in the Toronto car carnage. A Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokeswoman said the Australian Consulate-General in Toronto had been in contact with local authorities and at this stage there was no indication Australians had been affected. DFAT will continue to monitor the situation.
HOW THE INCIDENT UNFOLDED
The van which mowed down pedestrians was stopped after a police car spotted it while approaching from the opposite direction, swung into a U-turn and started driving alongside.
After both vehicles came to a stop, the single police officer exited his vehicle with pistol drawn.
The suspect then flung open the van door he was driving and pointed a black object at the officer, reportedly shouting “shoot me”.
Police later said the man was unarmed.
The tense stand-off ended when the driver dropped the object he was holding and went on the ground.
Bodies covered with blankets are seen along the footpath after the terrifying bloody carnage, which occurred as the city was hosting the G7 Summit.
Police Chief Mark Saunders said 25-year-old Alek Minassian from Richmond Hill, Ontario, is being interrorgated in custody. It was not immediately clear what caused the driver to strike the pedestrians in a busy intersection in the north-central part of the city shortly after 1.30pm local time, but Saunders said the driver’s actions “definitely appeared deliberate”.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale told a press conference that “ … on the basis of all available information currently, there would appear to be no national security aspect to this particular murderous rampage”.
Mayor John Tory told the media gathering that police “responded in a heroic fashion. They did their very best and continue to do their very best and of course the police work involved in all this has really only just begun.”
Canada’s minister of public safety Ralph Goodale told reporters that police are still investigating to determine what happened and why. Goodale said Canada had not changed its terrorism alert status level and he has no information that would suggest a need to do so.
CBC reports government officials as saying the suspect appears not to be associated with any organised terrorist group. CBC says the suspect is not considered to represent a larger threat to Canadian national security.
Toronto 680 News reported a witness identified only as Mike as saying the suspect was confronted by a single police officer.
The van was driving down the sidewalk when a police car approached from the opposite direction. The police car did a U-turn and began driving “side-by-side” with the van.
Mike told media both vehicles came to a stop. The officer was first to exit, with his gun drawn. The suspect then flung open the van door of the vehicle he was driving and pointed a black object at the officer.
Mike says he heard the officer repeatedly tell the suspect to “drop it” to which the suspect responded “shoot me”.
He said he saw the suspect dropped the object he was holding a shortly thereafter and dropped to the ground.
‘POLICE TOOK GUN FROM HIM’
Video shown on several Canadian outlets showed police arresting the driver, dressed in dark clothes, after officers surrounded him several blocks from where the incident occurred in north Toronto.
“Get down!” the officer is heard shouting.
“I have a gun in my pocket,” the suspect replies.
“I don’t care. Get down or you’ll be shot!” the officer says.
Witness Carlos Rojaas said he was sitting and talking on his mobile phone near the intersection of Yonge Street and Poyntz Avenue when the van came speeding towards him.
“The guy is driving fast, right? Then he pull aside, then I see the police car after him,” Mr Rojaas told CTV News.
Rojaas said he thought it was a traffic stop — until he saw that both the driver and police officer pursuing him were armed.
“The police has his gun in his hand … then I see the other guy inside the van with gun too,” he said.
“So they both holding gun, pointing to each other, like ‘Drop it, drop it!’”
That’s when Rojaas fled.
After multiple pedestrians plowed down on Toronto sidewalk, driver gets out holding what appears to be a gun. Police arrest him. No shots fired.
Video of the scene shows the driver shouting “kill me,” repeatedly gesturing his hand from his back pocket toward the officer.
“No. Get down,” the solo policeman shouts back.
Rojaas described the driver as a tall, bald man of European appearance. The driver, he said, eventually put his weapon on the ground.
“There was a long time pointing to each other, and the police managed to take the gun from him without kill him,” Rojass said. “So that was a great job. Congratulations to this guy. Wonderful cop.”
A tarp lays on top of a body on Yonge St. at Finch Ave. after a van ploughed into pedestrians on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.
‘GETTING HIT ONE BY ONE’
Ali Shaker told local radio station CP24 that he had been driving south along Yonge Street when he saw a white van ahead of him mount the footpath, just south of Finch Avenue.
At first, he thought the driver had gone into cardiac arrest.
“He’s just hitting people, one by one going down — oh man, it was a nightmare,” Mr Shaker said. “I thought he had a heart attack or something, so I was trying to chase it down.”
The van, he said, appeared to be going as fast as 70 kilometres per hour as it continued to mow down pedestrians.
Mr Shaker said that the driver appeared to be moving deliberately through the crowd.
“He just went on the sidewalk,” a distraught Mr Shaker said. “He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way he would hit.
“It was really bad out there. I couldn’t believe what I seen. All these people on the street getting hit one by one, post office box getting crumbled up on people. One person got dragged on. Their blood is all over Yonge and Empress. It’s really bad out there. I’m so shaky. I can’t believe this is happening. This is unbelievable.”
‘SOMEBODY WAS GETTING DRAGGED’
Kenneth Wu told CityNews he watched in shock as the van ran down an older woman. Wu said the driver looked him directly in the eye.
“He looked at me face to face, that’s when I saw that he was a very angry and scared young guy,” Wu said. “I don’t know what his motives are.”
Graham Vartiamaki was travelling north on Yonge Street when the van hit several cars ahead of them near Mel Lastman Square before “purposely (getting) on the sidewalk.”
“I jumped out and started chasing him and he just kept driving down the sidewalk hitting people,” Mr Vartiamaki, still shaking, told CTV News.
“(It was) absolutely horrific, just watching people get thrown from in front of the van,” he said. “At one point, somebody was getting dragged as well.”
MORE EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS
Witness Phil Zullo told Canadian press that he saw police arresting a man who had been driving a Ryder rental truck and saw people “strewn all over the road” where the incident occurred.
“We could see bodies on the ground, people trying to revive them, give them CPR,” he said. “The crowd was trying to bring them back to life, their bodies were full of blood. Their body parts were twisted … I saw dead (people) put into body bags.”
Mr Zullo told the Toronto Sun he was driving north on Yonge Street when he said he observed police chasing a vehicle.
“I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers,” Mr Zullo said. “It was awful. Brutal. Just people everywhere. People — shoes and shirts and ball caps on the floor.”
Another eye witness told CNN they saw a stroller fly through the air.
Police shut down the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue intersection following the incident and Toronto’s transit agency said it has suspended service on the subway line running through the area.
The incident occurred as Cabinet ministers from the G7 countries were gathered in Ottawa to discuss a range of international issues in the run-up to the G7 meeting near Quebec City in June.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to media as he left a G7 meeting.
UPDATE: Driver of van that struck 8 to 10 people in Toronto has been found and is in custody, Canadian authorities say
Mr Trudeau said: “Our hearts go out to anyone affected. We’re obviously going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours,” he said.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said: “My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured.”
State Premier Kathleen Wynne said: “This is a frightening thing that — as Mayor Tory said — does not, is not emblematic of who we are as a city or as a province but it is a tragedy … that we will work through but there will be a lot of sadness and pain before that happens.”