Toronto’s van ramming suspect identified as Alek Minassian - police
The man behind the wheel of the van that plowed into pedestrians on Yonge Street and Finch Avenue East was identified as Alek Minassian, Toronto police chief Mark Saunders has confirmed.
Saunders said that, although police are in the very early stages of their investigation, the suspect’s actions “definitely looked deliberate.”
He dismissed reports in the media that the perpetrator might have confronted officers with a gun before he was apprehended, saying that the arrest proceeded without incident and that “nothing indicates that he had a gun.”
The investigators are still “looking very strongly at what the exact motive of this action was," Saunders said. Asked if police, in line with earlier media reports, believe the incident to be of a terrorist nature, he added: “We don’t’ rule out anything.”
Minassian was previously unknown to law enforcement. “There is nothing on our files," Saunders confirmed.
There has been some confusion about the correct spelling of the suspect's name, spelled by some sources as Alek and others as Alex. The Toronto police have been inconsistent in this as well, the latest update suggesting the correct spelling is Alek.
Richmond Hill, Ontario is in a half-hour drive from Toronto. Citing officials with knowledge of the investigation, CBC reported earlier that the suspect is not known to have links to any organized terrorist group.
The way the incident unfolded suggests the suspect was acting deliberately, US law enforcement sources told CBS News, citing reports by witnesses. A US security source told Reuters that the investigators believe the incident is likely an act of terrorism, adding that nothing indicates that the assailant was not acting on purpose.
Accounts by the witnesses who spoke to RT indicate that the driver intended to crash into everything in his path.
“He just went on the sidewalk. He just started hitting everybody. He hit every single person on the sidewalk; any person in his way. The bus stop, everything, all shattered," a man on the scene told RT.
However, the Canadian government so far has been cautious in speaking about a possible motive behind the perpetrator’s actions. Ralph Goodale, Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, said earlier that the government had not issued a terrorism alert, noting that it is still too early to speculate on motives or causes.
Minassian mowed down pedestrians on Monday afternoon, then fled the scene before being apprehended by police officers several blocks away. Police earlier confirmed that one suspect was taken into custody, without specifying the extent of the charges.
At least ten people have been killed in the incident and 15 more have been injured, including five who were admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital in a critical condition.
Police have appealed to the public to provide any relevant information concerning the case. It is expected that an on-site investigation will take “several days,” police cautioned, warning that the area would continue to be on lockdown.