Toronto Vehicle Attack
On Monday April 23rd, 2018, around 1:30 PM, Toronto Police received reports of a van mounting a curb and hitting pedestrians in the area of Yonge St. and Finch Ave. Emergency services responded to the incident, and armed police were present at the scene. Additionally, the Toronto Transit Commission shut down subway service in the area. Quickly, reports came in that a driver using a rental truck from Ryder Systems Inc., struck dozens of pedestrians along a 2 kilometre stretch of road before fleeing the scene.
The van used in the incident was found in the area of Poyntz Ave., just west of Yonge St. Police officers arrived at the scene where the van was discovered and confronted the driver. The driver exited the vehicle and pointed to an object, resembling a gun, repeatedly shouting “kill me”. Despite the threat posed by the gunman, the suspect was taken into custody by an officer without violence, and no weapon was found on him. An initial casualty count reported nine dead and 16 wounded on the day, which was later revised to 10 dead and 15 wounded. Several of the wounded are in critical condition in hospital, and it is therefore possible the casualty count may change again.
The suspect has been identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, a resident of the suburb of Richmond Hill, in northern Toronto. The Public Safety Minister of Canada has said that based on current information, the suspect does not seem to have any links to known terrorist organizations, and that there does not appear to be any immediate threat to national security, but the terror-threat level remains unchanged. Reports have quoted former classmates of the suspect as saying that he had attended a school for students with special needs, where he would often be seen alone, but was considered harmless. Currently, he was a student at Seneca College. There have also been reports that a Facebook page appearing to be that of the suspect, based on a similar picture as his LinkedIn profile, has a post on it referring to Eliot Rodger as “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger”. Eliot Rodger was a 22-year-old man from California who committed a deadly attack in Isla Vista, California, where he stabbed three people to death, shot and killed three others, and wounded 7 others by gunfire and 7 by vehicular collision. The validity of this Facebook post has not yet been verified.
An investigation has been launched into the incident, and the suspect is due to appear in court on Tuesday morning. The attack is reminiscent of recent vehicular attacks in Europe and North America, such as in Munster, Nice, London, Stockholm and New York City to name a few, where some of the suspects carried them out in the name of the Islamic State. Despite this, the incident has yet to be labelled as terrorism by the authorities, but it has not been ruled out.