Toronto Van Attack Victims Were Mostly Female, Police Say
(Bloomberg) -- Toronto police are investigating a Facebook post that suggests misogyny may have been a motive for the driver in a van attack that left 10 dead and 14 injured, with most of the victims women.
Alek Minassian, 25, appeared in a Toronto court on Tuesday and was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder after a rental van mowed down pedestrians along bustling Yonge Street in the north end of the city Monday. A 14th attempted murder charge is expected to be laid, police said.
A portrait of Minassian is emerging -- reportedly a recent Seneca College student who had a brief stint in the military. Questions have swirled around a Facebook post apparently from his account, which celebrated the man behind a 2014 California mass-shooting and cited a “rebellion” of sexually frustrated people, or “incels.”
“The accused was alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook minutes before he began driving the rented van," Toronto Police Homicide Detective Sergeant Graham Gibson told reporters.
Gibson said so far police have no evidence suggesting the driver was deliberately targeting women as he drove onto the curb and plowed into pedestrians, although the victims were “predominantly” female.
He declined to comment when asked whether the suspect may have been frustrated over his relationships with women.
“Because that’s part of the evidence, that’s going to be part of our investigation," he said.
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Canadian officials have downplayed any suggestions the attack was coordinated or part of a broader campaign or effort. “At this time, we have no reason to suspect that there is any national security element to this attack, but obviously the investigations continue,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa. He called it a “senseless attack.”
The cryptic post refers to Minassian as a “private (recruit),” and infantry member. “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” the post reads. “All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.” Rodger was behind the killings of six people in 2014 in Isla Vista, California.
The term “incel” refers to “involuntarily celibate,” and is a term used in online posts by some sexually frustrated men lamenting their lack of a partner. Rodger used the term. The Facebook post appears to have been made by Minassian’s account, a Facebook spokesperson said. There has been no confirmation that he posted it himself.
“This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the people who have been affected,” Facebook Inc. said. “There is absolutely no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts. We have found and immediately deleted the suspect’s Facebook account.”
Monday’s incident marked the worst mass killing in Canada since women were targeted by Marc Lepine, who killed 14 people at a Montreal engineering school in 1989 before turning the gun on himself. It comes on the heels of several other vehicle attacks around the world, including one in a Berlin Christmas market that killed 12, a van attack in Barcelona that left 13 dead, and the truck loaded with arms that drove into a late-night crowd in Nice, France, in 2016, killing 80 people. A vehicle attack in Edmonton, Alberta, last year injured four pedestrians and a police officer.
Ontario’s Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer said the investigators have not identified any of the people killed at this point. The confirmations will be done through dental X-rays, fingerprinting or, if necessary, DNA analysis, he said.
“When we have tragedies of such multiple numbers and complexity, it’s very challenging,” Huyer told reporters, adding that the injuries happened in a busy pedestrian area over a significant distance. “It’s far different from somebody found in their house deceased.”
Among the dead was Anne-Marie D’Amico, according to a statement from Tennis Canada. The young woman and her family were avid members of the tennis community. She was separately identified as an employee of Invesco Ltd. The Atlanta-based company confirmed an employee died, without naming the person.
“I can now confirm that unfortunately one of our employees has succumbed to her injuries," President Peter Intraligi said. “Out of respect for her and her family, we will not be providing any further comments.”
Two South Koreans were also among the victims, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap, which cited the foreign ministry. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, which has its head office at the corner of Yonge and Finch where the incident started, confirmed one of its male employees was injured.
Saunders had said Monday the incident was clearly deliberate and nothing has been ruled out.
“I open all the lanes right now, I don’t close anything until the evidence closes it for us,” Saunders told reporters. “Right now everything is open.”
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