Toronto mourns after van attack that killed 10
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, April 24, 2018 4:16AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 24, 2018 6:50PM EDT
TORONTO -- The shock of a horrific van attack that left 10 people dead sent Canada's most populous city into mourning on Tuesday, as residents and officials alike tried to come to terms with the tragedy.
A makeshift memorial at the scene of the incident continued to grow as investigators nearby blanketed a desolate stretch of once-busy Yonge Street where a van had mounted a sidewalk and rammed into pedestrians a day earlier. Fourteen people were also injured in the incident.
Alek Minassian, the man accused in the rampage, was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder Tuesday morning. Police said an additional attempted murder charge would be laid against the 25-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., by day's end.
None of those slain in the attack were identified by authorities, but other sources indicated the dead included a woman with a love of volunteering, a college student, and citizens of both South Korea and Jordan. Police also said those killed and injured were "predominantly women," but didn't offer further details.
Those in the typically bustling neighbourhood where the attack took place said they were struggling to make sense of the violence.
"You feel for this community considering that you live here, you shop here, you laugh with the people here, you go out here," said resident Don-Antonio Andrew. "It's a very traumatic time for this area."
Andrew, who said one pedestrian got hit directly in front of his apartment building, was among hundreds who laid flowers, candles and other tributes around the crime scene near Yonge Street and Finch Avenue.
Claire Hurley, who was making her own floral contribution, said the fatal attack was difficult to reconcile with the safe community she's come to know.
"It was a big shock," she said, wiping away tears. "Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine, and enjoying life. I guess you just have to ... enjoy every day."
Across the city, Minassian made a brief appearance in a packed courtroom. Clad in a white jumpsuit, he looked around and said little other than his name before charges were announced. His next court appearance is slated for May 10.
A man police identified as Minassian's father was in court. When asked if he had a statement to offer to the victims' families, he simply replied "I'm sorry."
Little is known about Minassian, but the Canadian Armed Forces said he served a brief stint as a recruit from late August to late October 2017.
A source with the military told The Canadian Press that Minassian did not receive any weapons training and was assessed as a below-average recruit. The source noted that there were no red flags to suggest something like the van incident Minassian is accused in was coming.
Toronto police homicide Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson offered few details about Minassian's activities before his alleged attack, but said the van involved was rented from just north of the city shortly before the incident.
Gibson also made note of a largely incoherent, widely circulated Facebook post on Minassian's account.
The post openly praises Elliot Rodger, a man who killed six people and then himself at the University of California in 2014. The post also references involuntary celibacy, colloquially referred to as "incel."
"The accused is alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook minutes before he began driving the rented van," Gibson said at a news conference. "It's something that we'll take into account."
Ontario's Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer said investigators had yet to formally identify those killed, citing the complexity of the investigation and the size of the crime scene, which spans nearly a kilometre along one of Toronto's busiest streets.
"We're always balancing the need to know and the desire to know quickly to ensure that we have 100 per cent accuracy," he said. "That takes time and that time can be very frustrating."
But identities began to emerge from other quarters.
Tennis Canada said long-time volunteer Anne Marie D'Amico was among those killed. She worked at Invesco Canada, a U.S.-based investment firm with offices close to the crime scene.
D'Amico was a cheerful and familiar presence at the Rogers Cup tournament, where she started volunteering at age 12, said Gavin Ziv, Tennis Canada's vice-president of national events.
"She was a really friendly, warm person...always caring for other people ahead of herself," he said.
Seneca College said another one of the victims was a female student, but didn't offer further details.
A South Korean news agency said two unnamed Korean nationals were also among those killed. And Jordan's state-run Petra news agency said one of that country's citizens, Munair Najjar, who was in Toronto visiting relatives, also died in the attack.
Throughout the day, tributes poured in from politicians at home and farther afield.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who noted there's no evidence to suggest there was a "national security element" to the incident, called the attack "senseless" and "horrific."
"The entire community of Toronto has shown strength and determination in the face of this tragedy," Trudeau said. "All Canadians stand united with Toronto today."
Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city will recover.
"Toronto was a great city yesterday, it is a great city today and it will be a great city tomorrow," he said. "The people who call this city home are shaken right now but we are not broken and we will not be broken."
Tory said the city is establishing a fund for families of attack victims. Dubbed .TorontoStrong, it builds upon a previous crowd-funding effort that had already raised nearly $100,000.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said police are continuing their investigation, adding hot lines have been established for collecting public tips and offering support to those who need it.
"Community safety is not just a matter of saving lives, it's a matter of well-being," he said. "I don't want people walking away thinking, 'I need help but I can't afford it,' or 'I need help but I wasn't part of this investigation."'
For at least one of the mourners, the safety of the city he now calls home had not been compromised by Monday's events.
"This was a one-off situation," said Andrew, who calls the Yonge and Finch area home. "I wouldn't feel unsafe. This is Toronto, this is Canada. We love each other here."
-- With files from Maija Kappler and Liam Casey