'Horrific': Police say 5 family members run down in London were targeted because they were Muslims
Published Monday, June 7, 2021 5:23AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 8, 2021 8:16AM EDT
Police in London, Ont. say that five family members who were mowed down by a driver while they were out for a walk Sunday night were targeted because they were Muslim.
The family was out for a walk in London’s north end at around 8:40 p.m. They were walking along Hyde Park Road near South Carriage Road when a southbound black pickup truck occupied by a single male mounted the sidewalk and struck them as they waited to cross the intersection, police said.
“I'm also able to tell you at this time that based on information collected during the course of the investigation, we believe that this was an intentional act, and that the victims of this horrific incident were targeted,” London Police Chief Stephen Williams told reporters Monday. “We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”
Four members of the family died from their injuries: a 74 year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman, and a 15-year-old girl.
A nine-year-old boy is the sole survivor and remains in hospital with serious injuries.
The attack was pre-planned and pre-meditated and the suspect was wearing a vest that appeared to be like body armour during the attack, police said.
The vehicle fled the scene at a high rate of speed after the family was struck, police said.
The suspect was arrested without incident at Cherryhill Village Mall on Oxford Street, about seven kilometres away from where the family was run down.
A 20-year-old London man identified by police as Nathaniel Veltman is now in custody in connection with the attack. He has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Police would not specify why they believe the attack was hate motivated, but said they gathered evidence “from a variety of sources.” They also said the suspect didn’t know the family.
Police said the suspect had not had any contact with London police prior to the incident.
The RCMP have reached out to offer their assistance and police may lay terror charges in connection with the case.
Witnesses saw suspect vehicle speed by
Paige Martin was sitting in her car at a nearby intersection Sunday night when she saw a “flash of black,” presumably the involved vehicle, blow past her and several other cars stopped at a red light.
“My car shook, so did the car next to me, and someone rolled down their window to ask if I was alright,” she told CTV News London. “(The car) had come over the median, come over the other side of the road – it was just out of place at any time but especially on a Sunday evening.”
She later saw a flurry of emergency vehicles speed to the scene.
“There were people everywhere. People were pointing and screaming and had their arms waving.”
She said that she believed the victims who were struck were “a family just out for a walk.”
“My heart is just so broken for them today.”
Officials are asking for privacy for the family as the investigation continues. The names of the victims are not being released yet at the request of the family.
Leaders condemn ‘heinous’ attack
London’s Mayor Ed Holder called the attack “an act of mass murder” Monday.
“Let me be clear, this was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, rooted in unspeakable hatred,” Holder told reporters. “The magnitude of such hatred can make one question who we are as a city, and who we are as Londoners. It's up to us, though.”
Premier Doug Ford also issued a statement calling the attack “heinous.”
“Hate and Islamaphobia have NO place in Ontario,” he said in a tweet. “Justice must be served for the horrific act of hatred that took place in London, Ontario yesterday. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends during this difficult time. These heinous acts of violence must stop.”
In a statement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he is “horrified” by the news.
“To the loved ones of those who were terrorized by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you. We are also here for the child who remains in hospital - our hearts go out to you, and you will be in our thoughts as you recover,” Trudeau wrote in a tweet. “To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable - and it must stop.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory also offered his condolences and said “we stand with the Muslim community in London and here in Toronto in the face of this tragedy. And we absolutely reject the hatred and Islamophobia that led to this deadly violence.”