What we know so far about Alek Minassian
Published Tuesday, April 24, 2018 10:58AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 27, 2018 9:09AM EDT
The man accused of driving a van into pedestrians on Yonge Street in Toronto’s north end was pursuing a career in information technology and close to graduation from college before Monday’s attack.
Investigators are learning more about Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont. He was a month away from completing a degree at Seneca College in Toronto, and recently reached out to a recruiter who described him as “intelligent” and “articulate.”
"The semester ends end of April so I will be available at that time or early May," he wrote in an email dated March 21, which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
His past experience also includes work at a Thornhill, Ont.-based investment software firm, and a brief stint in the Canadian Forces.
Minassian is facing 10 charges of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder in the alleged attack. He made a brief court appearance in a Toronto courtroom Tuesday morning to hear the charges against him. He appeared to understand what was happening and spoke softly to the duty counsel lawyer representing him.
Police have said Minassian was not known to them before this incident and had no previous criminal record.
He also appears to have little social media presence. A LinkedIn page listed him as a student at Seneca College, enrolled between 2011 and 2018. He is also listed as a research assistant in a software development project on a Seneca website.
Chasing a career in computers
Minassian worked as a quality assurance developer at Toogood Financial Systems between May 2016 and October 2016, according to a statement from the company. Statement is in our email chain
“If requested, we will cooperate with law enforcement to provide information to assist with their investigation,” wrote Chief Operating Officer Timothy Wong. “Our prayers and thoughts are with the victims, their families, and everyone personally affected by this tragedy.”
Minassian also worked part-time at Naprico Inc., run by entrepreneur Vigen Nazarian. Nazarian said he was with the company for about “four to six weeks.”
"There's really nothing that stood out as special," Nazarian told The Canadian Press. "He was courteous, respectful and he did manage to deliver the project on time."
Nazarian said the pair worked on a wine shopping app.
He said he agreed to be a reference on Minassian’s resume.
OMERS, a large pension plan company, said Minassian worked there as a summer student in 2015, but wouldn't publicly discuss current or former employees.
Months in the military
Minassian attempted to become a soldier with the Canadian military but left training after just over two weeks, CTV News has learned.
CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson says she has learned Alek Minassian was a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for two months, between late August and October, 2017.
She says he underwent basic training at the Saint-Jean Garrison in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., but according to her sources, did not perform well. Minassian did not complete the training because he requested to be released after 16 days.
“For some reason, he asked to be released and he received a voluntary release, rather than a forced or medical release,” Stephenson told CTV News Channel.
“We don’t know what prompted him to ask for that or why that happened, and we don’t know much more about his training.”
Stephenson added that she has heard from law enforcement “on multiple levels” that Minassian was struggling with his mental health.
Just a few minutes before the attack began, a post was made to Minassian’s Facebook page that read, in part, "the Incel rebellion has already begun!”
The term “Incels” refers to a group of “men's rights activists” who are “involuntarily celibate” and who commiserate together about their lack of sexual activity.
The post praises Elliot Rodger, a self-confessed virgin who shot and killed six people and injured 14 others near the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014.
Although Facebook has confirmed the post was made to Minassian's account, it’s unclear whether Minassian himself wrote it.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company deleted Minassian's account on Monday, saying "there is no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts."
Police said Tuesday that they are looking at the Facebook post as part of their investigation.
“As has been reported in the media, the accused is alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook minutes before he began driving the rented van,” said Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson.
Life at home
Neighbours in the area describe Minassian as quiet, with one neighbour saying he seemed “a bit odd,” and shook his hands about while walking.
“You’d say, ‘Hello,’ and he wouldn’t say nothing, but a lot of people here don’t,” the neighbour said.
Another neighbour told CTV News that his daughter had gone to the same high school as Minassian and said that he had had problems and needed “a special teacher.”
On the day of the attack
Gibson said that Minassian is alleged to have attended a Ryder truck rental company north of the city the morning of the incident.
“He then proceeded to rent a panel-style van. Subsequent to that he then made his way to the area of Finch (Avenue) and Yonge Street in Toronto, and this was around 1:30 p.m.”
Toronto police cordoned off the Richmond Hill home where Minassian lived, searching for any clues.
Minassian was arrested after a brief standoff with a lone police officer, not far from where a van killed 10 people. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters Monday night that, while the man they arrested insisted he had a gun, no gun was found. At the Tuesday afternoon news conference, Saunders said a cellphone was seized from the suspect.
Police said they are still investigating the motive for the incident.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Tuesday that the investigation is underway and there has been no evidence to suggest the attack was related to terrorism.
"The events that took place ... in Toronto were a senseless attack and a horrific tragedy," Trudeau told parliamentary reporters in Ottawa, extending the government's condolences to the victims and their families.
Goodale, speaking in Toronto, said the investigation underway is still in its early hours, “but thus far there is no discernible connection to national security in the incident last evening.”
With files from CTV Toronto’s Tamara Cherry and The Canadian Press