Everything we know so far about the Toronto attack
Tragedy struck Toronto yesterday as 10 people were killed and 15 injured after a rented van swerved across four lanes and hit pedestrians on one of the city's busiest streets. Described as "like nothing anybody had seen before" by a city police officer, the attack has left the capital city of Ontario, Canada, in shock and disbelief, with millions of people across the world expressing their condolences to the bereaved families and others affected on social media. But, with details still scarce today, the question is, what do we actually know so far about the attack that has devastated Canada?
The incident occurred around lunchtime on one of the Toronto's first warm days of the year, with the suspected driver - named on Monday evening as 25-year-old Alek Minassian - heading south on Yonge Street at about 1.30pm local time. Veering the vehicle onto the pavement, the driver began striking down pedestrians, weaving in and out of oncoming traffic for about three kilometres.
Ali Shaker, who was driving near the van at the time, told Canadian broadcast outlet CP24 that the driver appeared to be moving intentionally through the crowd at more than 30 mph, adding: "He just went on the sidewalk. He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way he would hit."
In addition, Witness Phil Zullo told the Canadian Press that he saw people "strewn all over the road" where the incident occurred. "I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers," he stated. "It was awful. Brutal."
After knocking down dozens of innocent pedestrians, the perpetrator allegedly attempted to flee the scene. However, a video captured by a bystander and broadcast on several Canadian outlets, shows that the police eventually surrounded him and a tense standoff ensued.
Heralded for handling the incident without violence, police officer Scott Gilmore has been named by the press as "the officer that didn't shoot". While the details we have so far of the standoff have come only from videos circling on social media, the footage appears to show the lone cop holding fire and shouting at the man to get down to the ground. The driver apparently replies: "Kill me. I have a gun in my pocket...shoot me in the head." In response to his pleas, the officer calmly arrests the suspect without firing any shots.
Multiple news outlets reported the suspect waving a dark object in the direction of police, with some claiming that Minassian was threatening them with a gun. However, police have since confirmed that he did not have a gun, and it remains unclear what exactly he was pointing at the officer.
When the tragic events hit the news, speculation was rife that the incident may have been a terrorist attack. However, asked if there was any evidence of a connection to international terrorism, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders stated: "Based on what we have there's nothing that has it to compromise the national security at this time."
Furthermore, a senior national government official claimed that authorities had not turned over the investigation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, something that many have taken as a sign that investigators believe it unlikely that terrorism was the motive. Nonetheless, Saunders - who confirmed that the incident "appeared to be deliberate" - also stated that the investigation was "far from over" and has appealed for witnesses to come forward.
While we are aware of the rough details of the tragic events that unfolded, the facts of the case are still emerging; this includes details of the identity of the suspected perpetrator who left 10 dead and 15 hospitalised. What we do know far so is that Alek Minassian has been reported to be a 25-year-old student who attended Seneca College in Toronto. Not previously known to the police.
Canadian police are currently questioning the suspected driver of the rental van and the police have stated that he is due to appear in court at 10am local time. In the meantime, Toronto - which has earned itself a reputation as a welcoming, tolerant and safe city - is left to grieve the victims of the devastating attack. An outpouring of grief has come from millions of people around the world, including Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who named the incident "a tragic and senseless attack" and offered his "heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of those who were killed, and my thoughts for a fast and full recovery to those injured."
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families and we can only hope that those responsible are brought to justice soon. If you have any information that may help police, please contact the investigation hotline on 416-808-8750