- Suspect not previously known to authorities
- He attended school for students with special needs
- ‘No national security connections’
- First victim identified
- Alek Minassian charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder
- Attack is worst mass killing in Canada in decades
Tense footage of a Toronto police officer refusing to shoot the man suspected of ploughing a van into a crowd of pedestrians and killing 10 people has emerged.
The clip showed the officer staring down the suspect at gunpoint in the middle of a street, while the man pointed what appeared to be a gun and shouted “Kill me.”
The video, obtained by CBC News, showed the suspect repeatedly pulling an object from his side and aiming at police.
The arrest was praised as a welcome example of police restraint in the midst of chaos, coming just minutes after the incident, which also injured 15 people and is one of the most violent incidents in Canadian history.
As the suspect shouted “Kill me,” the officer replied, “No, get down.” When the suspect said, “I have a gun in my pocket,” the officer responded: “I don’t care. Get down.”
Toronto police identified the man arrested as Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, a neighbourhood close to Toronto. On Tuesday prosecutors announced they were charging him with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
“It’s quite apparent that the suspect was trying to be executed. He was really looking for ‘suicide-by-cop,’” Gary Clement, a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police superintendent with 34 years experience of policing, said.
The first victim of the deadly attack has been named as Anne Marie D’Amico, an employee at Invesco, a US-based investment management company with a office close to where the incident unfolded.
A statement from the firm sent to CBC said: “Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those impacted by this tragic event. I can now confirm that one of our employees have succumbed to her injuries.”
The Toronto Police Service declined to name the officer involved in the stand-off, but Clement said he appeared to be a “very seasoned and mature officer.”
“I would say this individual met the right police officer,” Clement said. “Nobody knows how they’re going to react. In this situation a lot of it comes down to muscle memory. This guy reacted in a very mature manner.”
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the officer’s behaviour reflected the “high calibre of training that takes place.
“They are taught to use as little force as possible in any given situation,” he said.
It helped that the officer had a clear view of the suspect, who was out of the van and pacing between the sidewalk and the arresting officer, Clement said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the attack outside of parliament in Ottawa, calling on all Canadians to stand united with Toronto.
“We cannot as Canadians choose to live in fear every single day as we go about our daily business. We need to focus on doing what we can and we must to keep Canadians safe while we stay true to the freedoms and values that we all as Canadians hold dear,” Trudeau said.
The prime minister said that, while it would take time before the motives of the attacker were understood, the incident had not changed the country’s threat level or security preparations for a G7 summit in Quebec in June.
The non-violent end to the standoff won plaudits on social media.
“Wow, at how these Canadian cops brought in this suspected killer,” said Twitter user Stuart A Thompson in a posting.
Police in the United States have been criticised for being too quick to pull the trigger after a series of high-profile police shootings and deaths of suspects during arrest.
Monday’s incident - the worst mass killing in Canada in decades - occurred about 18 miles from the site where Toronto is hosting a meeting of Group of Seven foreign ministers from Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, but had no noticeable effect on that event’s security. Federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said: “There would appear to be no national security connections.”
Witnesses in Toronto expressed horror at the murders. The drama started at lunchtime on a warm spring day, when the driver drove his vehicle into the crowds. The street was soon covered in blood, empty shoes and bodies.
Young Lee, a 56-year-old attorney, looked out his third-floor office window on Yonge Street and was shocked to see medics attempting to resuscitate two of the victims.
“I’ve never seen violence like this here in Toronto,” Lee said. “I felt a mix of rage and a lot of sympathy for the victims.”
People left flowers at a makeshift memorial, which grew as commuters returned to work on Tuesday morning. Blank white posters left against a stone wall were covered with messages.
The Canadian flag was lowered to half-staff at parliament and at Toronto city hall.
What do we know about the suspect?
Alek Minassian, 25, attended a high school program for students with special needs where he would often walk the halls with his head down and hands tightly clasped, former classmates said.
Shereen Chami said her former classmate was not violent. She said Minassian was part of a program at Thornlea Secondary School, in Toronto’s northern suburbs, for high school students with special needs, attending a mix of mainstream and separate classes.
Chami remembers him walking the halls with his hands together and his head down, and making meowing noises.
“He wasn’t a social person, but from what I remember he was absolutely harmless,” she said.
Two other classmates said they attended classes for students with special needs alongsideMinassian. Special needs is a blanket term used in the Canadian education system that covers learning and behavioral difficulties as well as physical disabilities.
Police said Minassian was not previously known to them and his motives were still unknown. Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the driver’s actions “definitely looked deliberate.”