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Accused in Toronto van attack to face a 14th attempted murder charge

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LATEST UPDATES:

  • Alek Minassian charged with 10 counts of 1st-degree murder, 13 counts of attempted murder
  • Just one victim named so far — Anne Marie D’Amico
  • 3 foreign nationals confirmed dead (2 from South Korea, 1 from Jordan)
  • 14 victims remain in hospital
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says no evidence of a “national security element” to attack
  • Police seek help from the public to identify some victims

The man accused of plowing into pedestrians along a strip of one of Toronto’s busiest streets on Monday is expected to be charged with a 14th count of attempted murder in addition to the 10 counts of first-degree murder he already faces.

Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., was arrested after a white van left a trail of death and injury down a busy stretch of Yonge Street in north Toronto.
At a news conference Tuesday, police said little about any possible motive the suspect may have had, but did refer to a “cryptic” message posted on Minassian’s Facebook account moments before he allegedly drove south down a nearly kilometre-long stretch causing what paramedics described as “pure carnage.”

The post referred to the “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.” Rodger was the 22-year-old California man responsible for a deadly rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., that left six people dead and a dozen people wounded. In a video posted ahead of that 2014 attack, Rodger raged about a number of women turning down his advances.

Arrest made within 7 minutes: police

Det. Sgt. Graham Gibson told reporters that in the morning hours before the attack Minassian allegedly rented a panel van from Ryder before making his way to the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area around 1:30 p.m. and “deliberately striking” pedestrians.

Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said Tuesday Minassian was arrested within seven minutes from the time that police received their first 911 call. On Monday, he said the arrest was made 26 minutes from the time of the call.

He also clarified the number of injured is 14, not 15, saying the miscount was the result of a “fluid” situation. The majority of those struck, he said, were women, ranging in age from their 20s to 80s. Asked if they may have been targeted, Gibson would not say.

Asked if Minassian had any mental illness, he replied that it was too early to know.

Court appearance

Gibson told reporters that investigators retrieved a cellphone from the suspect. He could not confirm that it was the cellphone seen in Minassian’s hand in video footage that showed his arrest.

Minassian appeared in court wearing a white jumpsuit on Tuesday morning, showing little emotion, only giving his name and confirming he understood conditions imposed on him by the court.

CBC News has confirmed that Minassian spent 16 days in basic training with the Canadian Forces last fall before he asked to leave and then was ultimately released from service in late October.

Also at the news conference, chief coroner Dirk Huyer told reporters investigators have not confirmed any of the victims’ identities.

“We also have to ensure that we’re completely accurate when we do this,” he said. “It’s far different, for example, than somebody found in their house deceased.”

He said it may take days before forensic pathologists are able to confirm names of those killed.

Investigators will leave ‘no stone unturned’

Toronto Mayor John Tory, meanwhile, lauded Torontonians for showing their best “even on our darkest days,” making reference to a growing memorial in the area where the attack took place and a number of fundraising campaigns that have sprung up since the attack.

The city will be partnering with with GoFundMe as well as Canada Zakat, a Muslim fundraising organization, to co-ordinate donations, as well as launching the hashtag #TorontoStrongFund.

Earlier in the day, Tory addressed city council and said investigators will leave “no stone unturned” in their effort to find out what happened and why.

“This unfathomable loss of life has left our city in mourning,” the mayor said. “While we do not yet know the identities of all those who lost their lives, we can be sure that they were people who were loved, who had dreams and families, who had accomplished many things and would have done so much more.”

Earlier Tuesday, one of the people killed in the attack was identified as Anne Marie D’Amico, CBC News has learned. Since then three foreign nationals have also been confirmed dead: two from South Korea, and one from Jordan.

D’Amico was an employee at Invesco, a U.S.-based investment management firm. Her next of kin have been notified. Invesco’s Canadian headquarters are on Yonge Street, between Sheppard and Finch, close to the nearly one-kilometre stretch of Yonge Street where pedestrians were struck. Fourteen victims remain in hospital.

Peter Intraligi, president of Invesco Canada, confirmed D’Amico’s passing in an emailed statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those impacted by this tragic event,” Intraligi said. “I can now confirm that unfortunately one of our employees has succumbed to her injuries. Out of respect for her and her family, we will not be providing any further comments.”

D’Amico’s colleague at Invesco, Jon Tam, said she was “full of life, loved to travel, loved to help volunteer.”

He said the workplace has been devastated by the news that D’Amico is among the victims.

“She was a very warm, friendly presence in the office. Always smiling,” he said in an interview with CBC’s Metro Morning. “I’ll definitely be missing seeing that smile around the office.”

Police say the probe into the attack will take time as investigators appeal for information to help them identify victims and determine a motive.

Saunders said Monday night that the attack “definitely appeared deliberate,” but what motivated it was less clear.

Speaking to reporters early Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there is no evidence to suggest the “horrific” and “senseless” attack has a national security element.

It appeared Minassian, listed on his LinkedIn profile as a student at Seneca College from 2011 to 2018, was brought into custody without serious injury. The police officer who arrested Minassian has been identified as Const. Ken Lam, a longtime veteran of the force.

“As soon as he passed my car, he turned around and looked at me face to face,” Wu said. “That’s when I saw he was a very angry and scared young guy.”

Saunders said police are still investigating — and collaborating with provincial and federal counterparts — as they work at the scene, gather information and talk to witnesses.

The attack has shaken the city, but for many from the area, it has hit particularly hard.

Colin Gervais, who lives in the neighbourhood, came out to pay his respects.

“It could have been me, easily,” he said.

Racha Tfaili, another area resident, said the attack made her nervous — and sad for those who have lost loved ones.

“I couldn’t believe that it was basically at our doorstep,” she said. “Our hearts are with all of the families who lost somebody today.”

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