Alek Minassian, 25, has been identified as the person arrested on suspicion of driving a white Ryder van into a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto, killing multiple people. Witnesses said the driver was traveling fast when he jumped a curb and hit “everything in his path.” When police arrested him after he fled the scene, he approached them with what appeared to be a gun in his hand. The motive in the crash is not yet known, but early reports indicate the driver hit the pedestrians deliberately. People who know Minassian said he was socially awkward, but never strongly associated with any ideology or religioun.
During a press conference this evening, the Toronto Police chief spelled the suspect’s name as “Alex Minassian.” But the Toronto Police quickly confirmed on Twitter that the name had been misspelled and the suspect is, indeed, Alek Minassian.
One witness said that someone was dragged behind the car, and others said the driver even drove onto the sidewalk twice. Officials are not sure what the motive for the attack was, but are investigating mental illness. Minassian lives in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto. During a press conference, officials shared that 10 people died. One victim has been identified so far, Anne Marie D’Amico.
Minassian appeared in court for the first time Tuesday morning. He is charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. According to CBC, Minassian, who was dressed in a white jail jumpsuit, did not show much emotion during the hearing. He is scheduled to return to court May 10.
Here’s what you need to know about Alek Minassian:
1. Minassian, Who Has Been Connected to a Misogynistic American Spree Killer & the ‘Involuntary Celibacy Movement,’ Was a Member of the Canadian Armed Forces for 2 Months Last Year
Alek Minassian is the suspect who was arrested in connection with the horrific crash that killed 10 people, law enforcement officials have said. He is 25 years old. The suspect was previously known to law enforcement in Toronto, CNN reported. However, Toronto police said during a press conference that Minassian was not previously known to them. They said there was nothing in their files connected to Minassian.
CBS sources later confirmed the photo of Minassian, as seen in the LinkedIn profile above. According to his LinkedIn, Minassian was a student at Seneca College in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada.
According to CTV News, Minassian briefly joined the military last year. He joined the Canadian Armed Forces in August 2017 and asked to leave in October 2017 after completing just 16 days into his 13-week basic training.
Andrew Summerfield, a fellow recruit, told CBC News that Minassian wasn’t very good at taking directions. He struggled even at making his bed according to military standards or folding his clothes correctly.
“There was a lot of disciplinary action put towards Alek because he wouldn’t understand something and they’d want him to do it, and then he wouldn’t do it right,” Summerfield said. “…I’m in shock. It doesn’t seem like something Minassian would have been capable of… He just seemed like a quiet dude that went to school for computers…”
He said Minassian appeared to have a condition of some sort, but he never shared what it was. It just seemed like Minassian didn’t have the capacity to understand certain things, and he was “very socially inept.”
But there were no indications that he was violent. A senior Canadian Forces official told CBC News that there were no red flags pointing to something like what happened. Minassian simply seemed like he couldn’t adapt to a military lifestyle.
Jonathan Dienst of NBC News reported that Minassian had allegedly researched and chatted online about the Isla Vista killings in California in 2014. The Isla Vista massacre occurred when 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 14. He stabbed three men in his apartment, and then drove to a sorority house and shot three female students outside. Then Rodger drove to a deli and shot a male student, and then began driving through the city, shooting pedestrians and hitting some with his car. He was found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Tom Winter of NBC News confirmed the report about Minassian’s searching the Isla Vista massacre, saying that the report came from U.S. and Canadian law enforcement officials and was not based on any online postings. Meanwhile, an unconfirmed Facebook post has been circulating that claims to be from Minassian. The post refers to “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.” A Facebook source told Buzzfeed reporter Jane Lytvynenko that the post is “real.”
The CBC also confirmed the post, tweeting, “Facebook confirms to CBC’s Matthew Braga … that the post from Alek Minassian referencing ‘The Incel Rebellion’ and Elliot Rodger is real, and was posted publicly on his profile before Facebook shut it down.”
The post includes the statement, “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161.” According to Vice News, “‘00010 is the actual trade number for the Canadian infantry, and ‘C23249161’ seemed like a legitimate service number.”
In the post, the user claiming to be Minassian writes about 4chan, a controversial and anonymous social media site, along with the “Incel Rebellion,” a reference to the Incel Movement, a group of people who are “involuntary celibate.”
Prior to his rampage in 2014, Rodger posted a video on YouTube titled, “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution.” Rodger made the claims that he was killing women because he was a virgin and was targeting sexually active men. As a result, Rodger was considered a member of the Incel Movement, a movement for people who feel they are victims of enforced celibacy. You can read more about the Incel Movement here.
The post also mentions “Chads and Stacys,” which is a reference to nicknames for “attractive and popular” men and women who are sexually active, according to Know Your Meme. It is a popular term on the 4chan message board. Because of the 4chan references (the message board is known for creating hoaxes) and the timing of the Facebook post, many have claimed that the Facebook post was not really written by the van attack suspect and was fabricated. The exact time of the post is not visible in the screenshots and the Facebook page is no longer active. The page uses the same profile picture as Minassian’s Linkedin profile and also includes his correct college and high school. Police have neither confirmed nor denied the veracity of the post.
Facebook told the CBC that after it found Alek Minassian’s profile following the van attack, it took the page down, including the post referencing the “Incel Rebellion.”
“This is a terrible tragedy, and our hearts go out to the people who have been affected. There is absolutely no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts,” Facebook said in a statement to the CBC. It added that it “immediately deleted” Minassian’s account after identifying it as belonging to him. The social media company said it “uses a combination of technology and reports from its members to remove content that violates its community standards,” according to the CBC.
On an Incel Movement website, incels.me, members have been celebrating the connection between their group and Minassian, and have elevated him to hero status, like they did with Rodger. They have also celebrated that the first victim to be identified was a woman.
Meanwhile, Toronto police have said that there is no evidence the suspect was deliberately targeting women, despite the Facebook post.
Toronto police confirmed that 10 people died after a white van struck a crowd of people at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue East around 1:30 p.m. on Monday, April 23. The van was traveling southbound and mounted the curb, hitting numerous people who were on the sidewalk, CTV News reported. Witnesses said the man drove onto the sidewalk multiple times.
Ali Shaker, who witnessed the crash, said the driver hit someone with a stroller, CTV reported. “He just destroyed so many people’s lives; every single thing that got in his way,” Shaker said.
Police said that 16 other people were injured in the attack. This is a busy area north of downtown Toronto. Yonge Street is one of the main thoroughfares in Toronto.
Joseph Pham, a computer programmer who had a class with Minassian at Seneca College, told The Star that Minassian was just in school last week. He said Minassian was “socially awkward” and “kept to himself.”
“He didn’t really talk to anyone,” Pham said.
Another classmate, who asked not to be identified, told Buzzfeed News that Minassian, “was just a weird and awkward person. But extremely smart.” The student said he, “couldn’t imagine him doing something like this,” and added, “He was extremely bright, and I presumed had a bright future ahead of him due to his immense amount of experience. He was easily one of the best students in the class I had him in.”
The Toronto Sun released a photo of Minassian in jail on April 26. Anonymous sources in the Toronto South Detention Centre told the Sun that Minassian talked about the Facebook post and said his only regret was not being killed by police. He had searched for “death by cop” on the Internet and tried to find a way to be killed by a police officer, but his attempt was not successful.
Sources at the jail told the Sun that Minassian talked “openly” about his Facebook post and how much he didn’t like women. One person said that Minassian mentioned “he hates the people who deny him sex” and that he felt no remorse for what he did. That source said Minassian talked about hating “Chads and Stacys.” During an intake interview, he said he did not have a girlfriend and had last asked a woman on a date in 2012, when he was told no. He did say that he had a good childhood and “wouldn’t change anything” about his upbringing. The source said he was three cells away from suspected serial killer Bruce McArthur.
2. Minassian, 25, Was Arrested after Fleeing the Scene and Pulling What Looked Like a Gun on Police
Witnesses said the vehicle drove up to a half-mile to a mile while it was hitting people, CNN reported. The driver of the van fled the scene and residents were urged to avoid the area. Subway service in that area was suspended. Minassian, 25, was arrested about 26 minutes after the first 911 call. You can see a video of Minassian’s arrest below.
The suspect was arrested just moments after a white van hit multiple pedestrians. Peter Akman with CTV National News said that it looked like he pulled a gun on the police. While he was pointing what looked like a gun at police, the suspect may have said “kill me,” The Star reported. He was arrested without any shots being fired.
The police officers who arrested Minassian are being hailed as heroes. Despite holding what appeared to be a gun, Minassian was not shot by the officers. During a press conference, the police chief confirmed that Minassian was not found with a gun. He said the officers’ training emphasizes avoiding violence. Here is a video of his arrest, showing the officers’ approach:
3. Classmates Said Minassian Was Socially Awkward and Not Strongly Affiliated with Any Ideology & Another Says He Emailed Them ‘Finally Finished With College. F*ck You All & Good Riddance’
Ari Bluff told CBC News that he went to school with Minassian and did not think he had many close friends. But when he saw Minassian in the hallways, he and others would always say hi. Bluff said they attended Thornlea High School and had a computer science class together in Grade 10. They graduated in 2011.
“I remember seeing him probably just walking down the halls, usually be himself, or in the cafeteria by himself,” Bluff told CBC. “My memory is not perfect, but certainly, it would not be, I don’t think, a misstatement to say that he wasn’t overly social.”
But another classmate had a different memory from Thornlea. Reza Fakhteh told National Post that he went to school with Minassian for two years at Thornlea. He said Minassian was a special education student who didn’t socialize and just meowed at people.
“I never heard him speak beyond meowing at people,” he said. “His movements were erratic and just strange overall. He acted like a cat in every way.”
Fakhteh said he was shocked that the driver was Minassian. “The guy I remember from high school definitely wouldn’t be driving,” he said.
Today, Minassian lives in Richmond Hill. Property records showed a home in Richmond Hill that police cordoned off belongs to Vahe and Sona Minassian, The Globe and Mail reported. A Haig Minassian lists the home on bankruptcy records.
OurWindsor.ca talked to neighbors of the home near Bayview and 16th avenues in Richmond Hill. A woman across the street said the family had lived in the neighborhood for six to eight years. She said it was a family of four, with two parents and two young men. She said the father was very friendly, but the sons weren’t so friendly and never really looked at her. Another neighbor who lives a street away, Ryan Baker, said he would see a man who looked like the suspect jogging in the neighborhood, but he never made eye contact.
On Twitter, Tara G shared a photo from a class she had with Alek Minassian in fifth grade.
Tara told Buzzfeed News, “He had tantrums all the time and would hit people. He had a lot of behavioral issues and had someone there with him making sure he wouldn’t get into trouble.” She said, “He was an angry kid. But you still never believe this could happen.”
So far, no official reports have surfaced regarding Minassian’s ethnicity or religion. The Globe and Mail reported that Minassian was not known for having any strong religious or political affiliations, strong viewpoints on any particular subject, or a penchant for violence, according to former classmates in high school and college. A man who had worked with Minassian on a project at Seneca, but asked to remain anonymous, told The Globe and Mail that Minassian seemed to have a significant social or mental disability, had a tough time speaking to people, and occasionally suffered tics where he would shake his hands or tap his head. This anonymous source said he believed Minassian got into an accident, panicked, and overreacted, because he had such a tough time believing Minassian would do this on purpose.
But a student who had a class with Minassian shared an email with The Globe and Mail that Minassian had sent to a group on April 19, out of the blue. The email was described as “telling off his classmates.” (The publication did not share the actual text of the message.) That student said that Minassian had worked several software jobs while at Seneca, but may not have lined up a job for after college. But, he added, Minassian had never shown any signs of extremism or having any particular religious or ideological beliefs. He described Minassian as a socially awkward young man who was good with computers.
A classmate told Buzzfeed News that Minassian sent an email on April 19 saying, “Finally finished college. F*ck you all and good riddance,” after completing the last course needed to complete his studies.
According to the classmate, Minassian started school in 2011 and took several years to finish his studies because he switched programs and was also working full-time as a software developer.
4. Minassian Was an App Developer Who Created a Google App Called ‘Toronto Green Parking Advisor’
Alek Minassian is an app developer who created an app called the Toronto Green Parking Advisor, available for free on Google Play. The Toronto Green Parking Advisor has been downloaded more than 100 times and was last updated on December 24, 2014. The app has a three star rating on Google Play. The email connected to the app was also connected to Minassian’s LinkedIn profile.
Here are photos from the app:
The description on Droid Informer reads: “Download the setup package of Toronto Green Parking Advisor 1.0 that is completely free of charge and have a look at users’ reviews on Droid Informer. The app can be launched flawlessly on Android 4.1 and higher. This download is totally safe. Alek Minassian designed this application that lies within the Travel & Local category.”
On the APK download page, the description for the app reads:
“This application allows you to search for parking locations in Toronto near a given address. The address can either be your current location or an address you specify. Parking locations can either be viewed in a list or on a map. Features of the application include:
• Can toggle between list view and map view from the drop-down menu on the action bar.
• View details of a parking location such as address, cost, distance, maximum capacity, and payment options. In the list view, this can be done by tapping on a parking location. In the map view, this can be done by tapping on a marker to display a brief information pop-up and then tapping on that pop-up to display the details.
• From the details page, get driving directions from your location to the parking location.
• From the details page, look at the street view of the parking location before you go.
• Parking information is downloaded periodically from the parking database server. The frequency of these updates can be specified in the application settings.”
Here are more detailed screenshots of how the app worked:
A Steam profile under the name Alek Minassian has also been found, but it hasn’t been used in years. A screenshot of the profile is below, but it is not known if this profile belonged to the same person who was arrested today.
The Steam profile was last used in 2010. The profile reads: “I love the Halo games. My favourite game is Halo 3 because it has matchmaking. My next favourite is ODST because Firefight is awesome! Halo Wars has matchmaking but I’m better at FPSs than RTSs. Halo 2 is a nice game even though Xbox Live Original has been discontinued. Good thing I downloaded all the maps! I also like Halo: CE because it is an EPIC classic. I also can’t wait for the release of Halo: Reach on September 14!”
Minassian was a fairly busy app developer. Records also indicate that he was involved in a Team Project for a developers group with Seneca’s Centre for Development of Open Technology. The project’s description reads, in part: “The program works by creating one or more objects and placing them on a Scene. It then adds one or more light sources and traces them as they reflect off or refract through objects.” This dates back to 2013, according to the only post he made on Seneca Health Research Projects here.
5. Officials Said the Crash Appeared Deliberate, But Mental Illness Is a Leading Theory Right Now, Not Terrorism
At this time, officials have not determined a motive for the horrific crash. However, officials currently think that mental illness — not terror connections — may have played a role. U.S. law enforcement officials told CBS News that the incident appeared to be a deliberate act.
There is some dispute on whether Minassian was known to law enforcement officials. Bill Bratton, a former New York City police commissioner, told MSNBC that his sources said the driver was known to police. However, Toronto police disputed this in a press conference, saying they had no record of him. Toronto police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said, “At this point it’s too early to tell what if any motive there was.”
Jonathan Dienst from NBC News reported that three officials were saying the leading theory for today’s horrific crash was mental illness, not terror.
Sona Minassian is listed on home property records for a Richmond Hill home that police cordoned off on Monday night, The Globe and Mail reported. But police have not yet said if that home is connected with Alek Minassian. Sona was quoted in a 2009 story, saying she was concerned that her son, who had Asperger’s, would lose access to a Helpmate program that helped prepare him for the workplace and helped him “work through his cognitive barriers.”
“My son would spend afternoons working with Helpmate. They were sensitive to his needs and now he has a job at Compugen here in town,” she said, according to The Globe and Mail. She never named her son in the story, and it’s not known how or if she is related to Alek Minassian.
Minassian’s father was seen today, learning about the charges his son will be facing. When asked if he had spoken to his son, he said no and whispered “sorry” under his breath.
Witnesses felt certain it was an intentional act. Nick Sanka told Global News that the driver appeared to be in control. “He did seem to have control over what he was doing,” he said. “So it wasn’t some sort of impairment where he was swerving. He just (drove) straight through — and he managed to make a perfect turn at that corner as well.”
A witness to the crash, Ali Shaker, said the van was traveling at a high rate of speed when it hit the pedestrians, CTV News reported. Shaker said: “He started going down on the sidewalk and crumbling down people one by one.” Another witness said who drove past and saw shoes and hats everywhere.
The van that the suspect was driving was a rented Ryder vehicle.
Henry Miller, who witnessed the crash, told Sky News that he thought the van was driving 60 to 70 km/h and was swerving in and out of traffic. “I would say (it) fairly deliberately hit pedestrians … before eventually careering off into one of the other side streets and out of view.”
He said he saw the van swerving across four lanes at a high speed as the driver neared the pedestrians.
Although early reports indicated that the horrific crash might be terror related, government officials have said that Minassian is not associated with any organized terror group, and the suspect does not represent a larger threat to national security.
During a press conference on Monday night, officials said: “There would appear to be no national security connection to this particular incident. The events that happened on the streets behind us are horrendous, but they do not appear to be connected in any way to national security based on the information that is available at this time.”
Bill Bratton, a former New York City police commissioner, had told MSNBC that his sources said the driver was known to police and the horrific crash was being considered a terrorist attack. But other sources are now saying the suspect was not associated with terror groups. ISIS channels have not promoted the attack or taken credit for it.
Sunnybrook Hospital received multiple patients, including five in critical condition, two in serious condition, and one in fair condition. Two patients were pronounced dead upon arrival, CNN reported.
Stephen Powell, district chief for Toronto Fire, confirmed with CNN that there were multiple casualties. Later, officials confirmed that 10 people died and even more were injured. One witness told CTV that they thought the driver had a heart attack because of how he was just hitting everything. “It was a nightmare,” the said. “It was a gruesome scene. It was really bad out there. I couldn’t believe what I had seen… Holy God, I have never seen like this in my life.”
At least one of the victims, he said, was dragged by the car.
This is a developing story.