Deadly Toronto van driver: What we know about Alek Minassian

 In U.S.
Toronto: The driver of the van that plowed into a crowd in Toronto  has been charged with 10 counts of premeditated murder.

The incident resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people and 15 others were wounded on Monday, police chief Mark Saunders said.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale wrote on Twitter that “there appears to be NO National Security connection to the horrible event” in Canada’s biggest city.

Social media in Canada, however, is abuzz with posts assailing the fact that the traditional media had refrained from calling the planned mass murder as a terrorist attack.

The incident took place in broad daylight around 16 kilometres from a conference centre hosting a meeting of G7 ministers, but officials said they had no evidence of a link to the event.

Police identified the driver as Alek Minassian, 25, a Christian with an Armenian roots. 

Minassian was arrested at the scene after van plowed into pedestrians on Toronto’s busy Yonge St.

Here’s what we know about the suspect:

Police have identified the suspect in a deadly van attack in Toronto as Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old man from Richmond Hill, Ontario, a suburb north of the city.

Canadian media reported that Minassian is of Armenian origin, the vast majority of whom are orthodox Christians. His attack was done in a predominantly Iranian part of Toronto and comes on the anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Ten people were killed and 15 injured on Monday afternoon after his rented white Ryder van jumped a curb and plowed into pedestrians along an approximately one-kilometre-long stretch of Toronto’s busy Yonge Street.

LinkedIn profile

A profile on social networking site LinkedIn identifies Minassian as a student at Seneca College in North York, the north Toronto neighbourhood where the attack took place. 

High school

Minassian attended a high school programme for students with special needs where he would often walk the halls with his head down and hands tightly clasped, according to former classmates.

Police say Minassian was arrested 26 minutes after he allegedly drove a white rental van into a crowd in the north end of Toronto, sending bodies flying.

The damaged rental van has been sealed off by investigators. Reuters

A bystander video of the incident, shown on CBC TV, shows a man repeatedly pointing an object at a police officer who shouts at him to “get down” as the suspect demands: “Kill me”.

Shereen Chami said her former classmate was not violent.

Emergency services close Yonge Street in Toronto after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into a crowd of pedestrians on Monday (AP)

She said Minassian was part of a programme at Thornlea Secondary School, in Toronto’s northern suburbs, for high school students with special needs, attending a mix of mainstream and separate classes.

Chami remembers him walking the halls with his hands together and his head down, and making meowing noises.

“He wasn’t a social person, but from what I remember he was absolutely harmless,” she said.

Two other classmates said they attended classes for students with special needs alongside Minassian. Special needs is a blanket term used in the Canadian education system that covers learning and behavioral difficulties as well as physical disabilities.

Candles and messages are being left at a makeshift memorial on Yonge Street. — AFP

Police said Minassian was not previously known to them and his motives were still unknown. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the driver’s actions “definitely looked deliberate”.

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