Suspect named as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, who was arrested by Toronto police after fleeing scene
Ten people have been killed and 15 injured after a van sped on to a sidewalk in Toronto, ploughing through throngs of pedestrians and leaving a trail of devastation that stretched several city blocks.
The incident occurred around lunchtime on one of the Canadian citys first warm days of the year. Emergency services received several frantic calls about a vehicle that appeared to be striking pedestrians along Yonge Street, one of the citys main arteries.
The incident appeared to be deliberate, Mark Saunders, Torontos police chief told reporters. The vehicle weaved onto the sidewalk and into oncoming traffic for about three kilometres, he said.
Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old man from the nearby town of Richmond Hill, was arrested after a brief confrontation with police. A LinkedIn profile suggested he was studying computer software at a college in Toronto.
Officials refused to comment on a motive, but said the suspect did not represent a threat to national security. The events that happened on the streets behind us are horrendous, said Canadas public safety minister, Ralph Goodale. But they do not appear to be connected in any way to national security based on the information available at this time.
While Minassian was not known to police, Saunders said the investigation was far from over. Asked whether any link to terrorism had been ruled out, he noted: We dont rule out anything.
He appealed for witnesses to come forward. We need to identify if there are more people, if hes working in concert with anyone, or if this was just a lone act on his own doing.
Justin Trudeau, Canadas prime minister, offered his condolences to the loved ones of those killed in what he described as a tragic and senseless attack and wished those injured a fast and full recovery.
We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities, he said in a statement. We are monitoring this situation closely, and will continue working with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.
The White House issued a statement saying the US was ready to provide any support Canada may need.
On Monday evening, Saunders said the majority of the victims had yet to be identified. Anywhere that this type of event happens, it is shocking. I think we recognise that Toronto is the fourth-largest urban city in North America and things do happen.
Distraught witnesses described watching in shock as a rented van zigzagged through the crowd of pedestrians. He just went on the sidewalk, Ali Shaker, who was driving near the van at the time, told Canadian broadcaster CP24. He watched as the van reached an estimated speed of up to 70km/h (43mph). He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way he would hit.
Christian Ali, who drove down Yonge Street shortly afterwards, said he saw several people lying in the street. There was a lot of blood flowing, he told the Guardian. Everyone was in sheer shock.
John Flengas of Torontos emergency medical services described the incident as surreal. Its unprecedented, he told the Globe and Mail. Weve never seen anything like this in Toronto up until now … we never thought this would happen here.
Police cordoned off several city blocks and suspended services at two nearby subway stations. The incident took place miles north of central Toronto, in a neighbourhood that ranks among the citys most multicultural. Hours after the incident an impromptu memorial had sprung up. It could have been anybody, said Konstantin Goulich, a resident of the area for the past 15 years.
Afterwards the area normally teeming with commuters and pedestrians was eerily empty as the residents followed police requests to stay off the streets and close any businesses. The van, bearing the Ryder Truck Rental and Leasing logo, sat on a side street, its front crumpled and grill missing.
After the driver initially attempted to flee the scene, bystander video captured the tense standoff between police officers and the suspect, showing him waving a dark object in the direction of police. In the footage, a police officer can be heard telling the man to get down on the ground.
Kill me, he tells the lone officer. I have a gun in my pocket.
The officer warned him if he does not get on the ground, he will be shot. Shoot me in the head, he tells them. The officer then arrested the suspect without firing any shots.
Video of the officers actions drew praise on social media, with many noting the officers calm and restraint as he confronted the suspect.
While the citys police chief said there was nothing to indicate the suspect was armed at the time of his arrest, Saunders commended the officer for doing a fantastic job, saying that officers here are taught to use as little force as possible in any given situation.
The incident took place about 18 miles from the city centre, where foreign ministers from the G7 countries were meeting to discuss international issues before the G7 summit near Quebec City in June.
Torontos mayor, John Tory, described the incident as a cowardly and incomprehensible attack on Monday.
These are not the kinds of things we expect to happen in this city, he said. I hope that we will as a city remind ourselves of the fact that we are admired around the world for being inclusive, for being accepting and understanding and considerate.