Van attack that killed 10 people in North York was 'definitely deliberate': police
Kayla Goodfield and Codi Wilson, CP24.com
Published Monday, April 23, 2018 1:56PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 23, 2018 11:19PM EDT
A van attack in North York that left 10 people dead and 15 others fighting for their lives in hospital on Monday afternoon was “definitely deliberate,” Toronto police said.
Toronto police confirmed the 25 victims while speaking to reporters approximately three hours after the incident.
The incident occurred in the area of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue shortly before 1:30 p.m. and the area remains closed to the public to accommodate the large-scale investigation.
Witnesses at the scene reported seeing a van driving onto the sidewalk and hitting pedestrians in its path.
Pools of blood could be seen on the sidewalk and multiple people were spotted on the ground in the area.
One witness Jamie Eopni told CP24 that he was inside a Tim Hortons in the area when he saw a white moving van turn around the corner on Yonge Street.
He said the vehicle was “completely demolished.”
“It was crashing into everything. It destroyed a bench. If anybody was on that street they would have been hit on the sidewalk,” Eopni said.
"You could see exactly where he drove because of the tire marks. (He was) just crashing into the poles, scraping along. It didn’t really look like he cared where he was going or what he was doing."
A van, with a badly mangled front hood, was on the sidewalk when the driver was apprehended on Poyntz Avenue, Eopni said.
A suspect identified by police as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, of Richmond Hill, has been arrested in connection with this investigation. Sources told CTV News Minassian is not known to police.
No charges have been laid thus far.
Speaking on Monday evening at around 8 p.m., Toronto Police Services Chief Mark Saunders said officers are exploring “all lanes” in their investigation.
“At this point with respect to what we have now – you can appreciate that this is very early in the investigation – there is no avenue that we will not explore but right now based on what we have and what we’re looking at doing right now because it is a multi-agency approach we will open all the lanes at the start and then we will follow where the evidence takes us,” he said.
“At this particular time working collaboratively – not just in a local but provincial and federal level – we are all putting our pieces together to see exactly what we have and at this particular time there is nothing that does affect the national security footprint. We are looking very strongly at what the exact motivation was for this particular incident to take place and at the end of the day we will have a fulsome answer as to what the conclusion is.”
In dramatic viewer video from the scene a police officer is seen approaching a man standing next to a white rental van on the sidewalk in the area.
In the video, the man is seen pointing something at the officer. Saunders said there is no indication that the man was holding a gun at the time.
The officer, who has a weapon trained on the man, can be seen walking towards the man. Eventually the suspect drops the item he is holding.
Moments later, the suspect is brought to the ground and taken into custody.
A source told CP24’s crime specialist Steve Ryan that the suspect was asking police officers involved to shoot him during their pursuit.
Police initially said there were reports of eight to 10 pedestrians struck in the area by a white van.
Sunnybrook Hospital confirmed they received 10 patients from the scene following the incident.
Two people were pronounced dead upon arrival. Five other patients are in critical condition, two patients are in serious condition and one is in fair condition, the hospital said.
North York General Hospital also confirmed they received four patients following the incident. One person was listed in critical condition and the other three were in stable condition, the hospital said.
Closure in area to accommodate investigation
Police have closed off the Yonge-Finch intersection for their investigation.
Anyone with any information regarding this investigation is asked to call officers at 416-808-8750 or submit footage to a web portal that has been set up by police.
“We’re making the appeal to anyone who saw anything or anyone who has any information with regards to this investigation to call,” Saunders said.
“This happened during a very busy time in the city of Toronto on one of the busiest streets in the country, there are a multitude of people that may have witnessed it and as a result are concerned or have issues regarding wellness.”
Saunders encouraged concerned Torontonians to contact victim’s services at 416- 808-7066.
Speaking outside of Earl Haig Secondary School after the incident, Mayor John Tory asked businesses in the area to close for the day noting that there will be major disruptions to the area in the coming days to accommodate a police investigation.
“I want to assure people that the city is in safe hands,” Tory said. “We’re asking people who live here or work here please do not come to this area if you are not already here. The police and the other first responders have a lot of work to do on a very complicated investigation and it just helps them with the task in front of them if people are not in this area.”
“We are asking that all of the businesses and buildings that are office buildings would in an ordinarily fashion close those businesses for the remainder of the day.”
Tory later added that the area will remain closed into Tuesday as it remains under an active investigation.
“We discourage people who don’t have to come here from coming here,” he said on Monday evening. “It will not be normal tomorrow.”
Additional safety measures, including road closures around Maple Leaf Square and the Air Canada Centre will be implemented for Monday night’s Toronto Maple Leafs playoff game at home.
“Our organization continuously works in close partnership with Toronto Police Service, and other security agencies, to ensure the safety of all fans attending games at Air Canada Centre, including playoff tailgate events at Maple Leaf Square,” a statement from the Toronto Maples Leafs and MLSE said.
York Street was closed in both directions between Front and Harbour streets and there was no access to York Street from Lake Shore Boulevard. Bremner Boulevard was closed between York and Lower Simcoe streets in both directions. Bay Street was also blocked off southbound between Front Street and Lake Shore Boulevard.
Enhanced security will also be implemented inside the arena during the game.
The road closures were lifted following the hockey game but police said the same restrictions may be implemented on Wednesday night during Game 7 of the playoff series.
Politicians react to deadly incident
Tory issued a written statement on the situation on Monday afternoon, calling it an” incomprehensible attack.”
“The Toronto Police Service and Toronto Paramedics responded quickly and with great professionalism to apprehend the suspect and help the wounded,” he said. “The City is working closely with all levels of government to ensure the safety of all Toronto residents and will make available all necessary resources.”
“Our city denounces this and all acts of violence and we are united in our grief over this devastating loss of life.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also commented on the situation in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.
“Our thoughts are obviously with those affected by this incident,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau later tweeted about the incident as well.
“Our thoughts are with all those affected by the terrible incident at Yonge and Finch in Toronto,” he said. “Thank you to the first responders working at the scene –we’re monitoring the situation closely.”
Speaking on Monday night, Wynne said the incident was “tragic” and “frightening.”
“It is a tragedy that we will work through but there will be a lot of sadness and pain,” she said. “It is very important in a situation like this that all levels of government work together and that is happening, I can assure you.”
Wynne also commented on the incident in a tweet earlier in the day.
“Hearing a number of people have been hurt at Yonge and Finch. My thoughts are with everyone affected. We’re following the situation closely — working with our federal and municipal partners. Thank you to the first responders caring for victims and witnesses,” she said.
City officials said the Toronto sign has been dimmed and the official flags at City Hall, all Civic Centres and Metro Hall will be flown at half-mast until further notice.
Speaking on Monday afternoon, the federal public safety minister said there is no information regarding this incident that would lead the government to change the country’s risk level.
"I do want to extend thoughts and prayers to those who have suffered as a result of what has happened. I also want to express great admiration for the police and the other first responders who have been involved,” he said.
Canada has been listed as Medium for a threat level, which means that a violent act of terrorism could occur, since October 2014.
Memorial set up for victims of deadly attack
A memorial was set up in Olive Square near the Yonge-Finch intersection on Monday evening to honour the victims of this incident.
Torontonians gathered to light candles and write their condolences to the victims and their families.
The organizer of the memorial told CP24 it was beautiful to see the community come together during such a tragic time.
“I’m very proud to live in this community that comes around so strongly to see us through this tragedy,” he said. “I’ve talk to a lot of people – some of them first responders – who all tried to help people the moment they saw the tragedy.”
“My thought is we will come through this. We are very strong we just have to keep on helping each other through. There is no other way.”