The suspect in a van attack that left 10 people dead and 14 injured was charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder on Tuesday, as police swept the scene of devastation stretching through more than two kilometres of north Toronto.
Alek Minassian appeared in court on Tuesday morning, where he was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. Police said he could face a 14th charge.
New security barriers were installed in front of Toronto’s downtown central transit hub, Union Station, and police presence at public events such as professional sports has been heightened. But Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said police are scaling back operations on one of Canada’s busiest streets. Amid the complex investigation, it could still be days before the identities of the dead are made public, although four victims were identified by friends and family on Tuesday. Police have not commented on the attacker’s motive.
Ontario’s Chief Coroner, Dirk Huyer, told reporters it will still be “a number of days” before any verified list of victims is released because of the incident’s sheer scale. So far, none of the dead have been officially identified.
“When we have tragedies of such numbers and complexity, it is very challenging. It occurred in a busy pedestrian area and it occurred over a significant distance,” Dr. Huyer said. “And there were many who were injured as well as deceased.”
“It’s far different, for example, from somebody found in their house,” said Dr. Huyer.
When investigators have found ID on a body, they have contacted next-of-kin, he said, and informed them tentatively that they believe their loved one has died. But, to scientifically identify victims, dental X-rays, fingerprints or even DNA will be required, he said, and forensic investigators are acquiring those records.
Asked if the misidentification of a victim from a crash involving a junior-hockey-team bus from Humboldt, Sask., had prompted more caution, Dr. Huyer said it is standard protocol in Ontario to pursue full scientific identifications in incidents with multiple victims to avoid confusion.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said North York Civic Centre will reopen on Wednesday. The TTC said on Tuesday night that service in the area had resumed.
While much of the yellow police tape was coming down near the scene of the massacre, investigators were trying to discover what could have motivated a person to rent a white van north of the city on Monday morning, hop the curb on Yonge Street and plow into more than 20 innocent pedestrians.
Speaking to reporters, Homicide Detective Sergeant Graham Gibson made a point of mentioning what he called the “cryptic” Facebook post the suspect, Mr. Minassian, a 25-year-old college student, made just before the attack, in which he appeared to claim allegiance to an online misogynistic movement known as “incel,” or the “involuntary celibate” and to a U.S. mass killer.
While he declined to elaborate further, Det.-Sgt. Gibson acknowledged that the alleged victims appeared to be “predominantly” women, ranging in age from mid-20s to their 80s.
He declined to comment on Mr. Minassian’s mental health, stressing that detectives are exploring all avenues in their investigation. The next steps will be to fill in the gaps of Mr. Minassian’s movements earlier that day.
Asked about a search warrant they are waiting on for the Richmond Hill home where Mr. Minassian lived with his parents, he said they will be seeking a number of judicial authorizations in the coming days.
Prince Philip and I join all Canadians in expressing our sadness following the terrible tragedy that occurred in Toronto yesterday. … You are all in our thoughts and prayers.— Statement provided by the Queen
Chief Saunders praised the Toronto Police officer who managed to arrest Mr. Minassian without firing a shot, despite the fact that the suspect was brandishing a cellphone as though it was a gun. Police did not reveal the officer’s name, but media reports have identified him as a veteran traffic cop at the local 32 Division named Constable Ken Lam.
Chief Saunders said the arrest “was nothing short of remarkable.” Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack told The Globe and Mail on Tuesday that the constable was emotionally overwhelmed afterward but remains humble about his action: “He says he’s just a police officer doing his job.”
Tributes and condolences from political leaders continued to pour in on Tuesday.
The Queen issued a statement: “Prince Philip and I join all Canadians in expressing our sadness following the terrible tragedy that occurred in Toronto yesterday. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who were lost, as well as our hopes for full recovery to all who were injured and affected by this incident. You are all in our thoughts and prayers.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised Toronto’s police and emergency medical teams. He said authorities will examine what more can be done to protect Canadians from these kinds of lone-wolf attacks. And he added he will travel to Toronto once he is certain that his visit will not hinder the investigation.
“We cannot, as Canadians, choose to live in fear every single day as we go about our daily business. We need to focus on doing what we can and we must to keep Canadians safe while we stay true to the freedoms and values that we all as Canadians hold dear,” he said.
Speaking to reporters at a Group of Seven security ministers meeting in Toronto, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale declined to say whether Canada’s security apparatuses have been tracking the “incel” community. However, he said he had only briefly heard of it before Monday’s attack.
“I had heard the expression, but I must say I would not have had any detailed idea or information about who or what that was,” Mr. Goodale said.
A memorial has been set up at the scene and a fund has been established through the Toronto Foundation to assist victims of the van attack.
According to the Toronto Foundation’s website, “the #TorontoStrong Fund will identify organizations and agencies to benefit from these donations, such agencies that offer services to victims of crime.
The city is also working alongside the Muslim charity Canada Zakat, which setup a GoFundMe fundraiser. As of 5 p.m. on Tuesday, they had raised about $98,000.
With reports from Michelle Zilio, Robert Fife and Jennifer La Grassa