Rampage victims mostly women
Suspect’s frustration with relationships to be part of the probe, police say
The majority of the victims in Monday’s deadly Yonge St. rampage are female, but there is no evidence that the driver was expressly aiming the vehicle at women, the lead homicide investigator on the case told reporters.
Toronto police Det.-Sgt. Graham Gibson also said investigators are looking into a “cryptic” Facebook message the accused killer allegedly posted just before he “deliberately” struck pedestrians in on Yonge — but stressed the investigation is in its early stages.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday inside the Toronto police auditorium, packed with local and international press, Gibson provided details from the first 24 hours of an investigation — a massive probe being conducted with the help of outside police agencies.
Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old with no prior criminal record, stands accused of first-degree murder in the deaths of 10 people, whose names have not yet been released pending identifi- cation of bodies.
That process that will likely take a few more days, Dr. Dirk Huyer, chief coroner for Ontario, told reporters at the conference. Some families have been told that officials “believe” their loved one has died but confirmation has not been made as officials are working to have100 per cent accuracy.
Minassian is also charged with 13 counts of attempted murder, with a fourteenth charge expected to be laid shortly. The injuries range from “scrapes and bruises to terrible injuries that I won’t get into discussing here,” Gibson said.
The Richmond Hill man appeared briefly in court handcuffed and in a white jumpsuit, his eyes darting around but otherwise wearing a poker face. A man believed to be Minassian’s father was in court and escorted out by police, surrounded by a throng of media.
Minassian is accused of jumping the sidewalk with a rented van and ramming pedestrians along a two-kilometre stretch of Yonge St., between Sheppard Ave. and Finch Ave. on Monday afternoon.
According to Gibson, Minassian rented the vehicle that morning at a Ryder truck facility just north of Toronto. Shortly thereafter, he made his way to Finch and Yonge; investigators are now trying to determine what Minassian did in the interim.
The first 911 call about the rampage came in at 1:25 p.m., and by 1:32 Minassian was arrested. On Monday, police wrongly said the time between the first 911 call and the arrest was 26 minutes, an error caused by the chaos of cataloguing multiple emergency calls, a police spokesperson said.
In witness video posted online, shortly before the arrest the driver appears to ditch the vehicle and has a standoff with a police officer on Poyntz Ave. south of Sheppard Ave., yelling “shoot me in the head” and claiming to have a gun in his pocket.
The arresting officer who has been widely praised for his handling of the situation is Const. Ken Lam, the Star has confirmed.
The victims who lay wounded and dead in the van’s wake are “predominantly” female, and range in age from mid-20s up to 80s, Gibson said.
While he stressed that there was no evidence that the driver was deliberately aiming at women, the detective said Minassian allegedly posted a “cryptic message on Facebook” minutes before he began driv- ing the rented van.
The message is a post allegedly made by Minassian, circulating on social media in the hours after the rampage, that references “incel” and invokes U.S. mass murderer Elliot Rodger. “Incel” refers to an online community of the “involuntarily celibate,” or men who feel frustrated by their inability to find romantic relationships or sex.
A spokesperson for Facebook Canada said it immediately deleted the suspect’s account Monday afternoon.
Gibson said police would be taking the post into consideration as the investigation progresses. Asked if the suspect was frustrated with his relationships with women, Gibson said it would be part of the probe, and he declined to comment when asked about the reference to Rodger, the U.S. mass murderer, in the alleged post by Minassian.
A man believed to be Vahe Minassian, the suspect’s father, attends Alek Minassian’s first court appearance on Tuesday.