It took more than 10 minutes just to read through all of the charges against Alek Minassian and the names of all of his victims on the opening day of his murder trial Tuesday.
It took more than an hour for the prosecutor to read through the gruesome details of the route the 25-year-old took on April 23, 2018, as he drove a rental van down the sidewalk of Toronto’s busy Yonge Street, killing eight women and two men and seriously injuring 16 others, in the city’s worst mass killing.
None of those details are disputed. Mr. Minassian admits that he killed those people, and that he planned what is now known as “the Toronto van attack.”
The remainder of the trial – which is being held virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – will focus on Mr. Minassian’s state of mind at the time.
“I know this platform will not look to you like a regular courtroom, but I assure you it is a real courtroom and all of the usual rules … will apply,” Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy said in her address Tuesday morning. “I expect there will be hiccups along the way and I hope you all bear with us.”
Mr. Minassian, wearing a black suit and appearing by video from the Toronto South Detention Centre, said only Tuesday that he is “entering a plea of not criminally responsible for all counts.”
The specifics of his defence remain unclear. The bulk of the trial is expected to be made up of testimony from health care experts including psychologists and psychiatrists.
Day 1 of the trial focused on the extensive agreed statement of facts in the case, around the route that Mr. Minassian took that day and the preparations he took to carry out the attack.
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On the morning of the attack, prosecutor Joseph Callaghan told the court, Mr. Minassian asked his father for a lift to a Chapters bookstore in Woodbridge, where he said he had plans to meet a friend. Instead, after he was dropped off, he walked four kilometres to a Ryder rental car outlet to pick up the 10-foot gas cargo panel van he’d booked three weeks in advance.
At the counter, he presented a valid driver’s licence and Visa card. The clerk asked what he’d be using the van for.
“Furniture,” Mr. Minassian replied.
Outside in the parking lot, Mr. Minassian needed help from another employee to put the van into drive. Once he got it going, he headed southeast toward Toronto.
As he approached a red light on Yonge Street at Finch Street West, just before 1:30 p.m., Mr. Minassian determined that this was where his “mission” would begin.
He used his cellphone to post a message to his Facebook account that “the Incel Rebellion has already begun!"
Then he stepped on the gas.
Short for involuntarily celibate, “incels” are a women-hating collective of men who feel they have been punished by the societal standards that reward sexually active men and women, known as “Chads and Stacys.” As Mr. Minassian told police in his interview after the attack (which was made public last year, and was played as part of the proceedings Tuesday), he identified with their frustration at “being unable to get laid.”
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The agreed facts included devastating details about where exactly each of his victims were struck, and how exactly they were hurt or killed. In order, his victims were Ji Hun Kim, 22; So He Chung, 22; Geraldine Brady, 83; Chul Min (Eddie) Kang, 45; Betty Forsyth, 94; Munir Abdo Habib Najjar, 85; Anne Marie D’Amico, 30; Beutis Renuka Amarasingha, 45; Dorothy Sewell, 80; and Andrea Bradden, 33. Sixteen others were also seriously injured.
The attack went on for 2.57 kilometres, with Mr. Minassian weaving on and off the sidewalk, gripping the wheel and staring straight ahead as he plowed into and over unsuspecting pedestrians. He hit mailboxes and street signs, concrete planters and patio railings, and stopped only after his final victim’s drink splashed on his windshield, obstructing his view.
On Poyntz Avenue, he was confronted by Toronto Police Constable Ken Lam, who yelled at him to get down. Mr. Minassian made hand gestures with his wallet, hoping it would be confused for a gun, in an attempt to get the officer to shoot him. When he didn’t, Mr. Minassian surrendered.
In his interview with Toronto Police Detective Rob Thomas after his arrest, Mr. Minassian said he’d been daydreaming about launching an attack and felt ready to be part of the “rebellion.”
“I was thinking ‘this is it,’ ” Mr. Minassian told him. “ ‘This is the day of retribution.’ ”
The trial is scheduled to resume Thursday.
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