Everything We Know About Alek Minassian, the Alleged Toronto Van Attacker
This story has been updated after new information from law enforcement indicated the length of the attack was seven minutes not 25.
This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Alek Minassian was charged with ten counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder Tuesday morning, one day after a rental van ran down pedestrians at a heavily populated Toronto intersection.
Here’s everything we know about the alleged mass murderer and what happened yesterday.
The attack took place on Monday just before 1:30 PM EST in North York. The first 911 call was dialed in at 1:27 PM. A rented Ryder van hopped a curb on Yonge Street just south of Finch Avenue and from there weaved on the sidewalks, into opposing lanes, before finally stopping just over 2 kilometers [1.2 miles] south of where the carnage began. The Globe and Mail reports that the attack took place over seven minutes and that one driver following the van said it was going over 70 kilometers an hour [43 MPH]. Ten people died and fifteen more were wounded in the incident.
At 1:52 PM police made an arrest in the attack. After a tense standoff, caught by a bystander on video, the suspect begged police to “kill me,” and claimed to have a gun. Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ontario, was arrested and the arresting officer has been lauded as a hero. Minassian has been charged with ten counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. He briefly appeared in court on Tuesday.
Police have not released any indication on what Minassian’s motive (if any) was, and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale stated that the attack had “no known connection to national security.” The closest we have to any indication of a motive comes in the form of a Facebook post that appeared to be written shortly before the attack which links Minassian to the online community known as “incels” and heaps praise on mass murderer Elliot Rodger. The post states that the “Incel Rebellion has already begun” and alludes to “Chads” and “Stacys” which is slang in many online corners, including the alt-right, for attractive non-socially awkward people.
His post read: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt. 4chan please. C23249161,” reads the post. “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
Incel and Elliot Rodger
Elliot Rodger killed seven people (including himself) in Isla Vista, California, in 2014. Prior to committing mass murder, Rodger posted a YouTube video in which he placed blame for the attack on women who had rejected him. Rodger is treated as a hero in the incel community. The incel movement regards men who believe that the reason they can’t get laid is women and is incredibly misogynistic. In 2017, Reddit shut down the subreddit for incels for inciting violence.
Facebook has confirmed to VICE that the Facebook profile with the statement is authentic, but that does not necessarily mean that Minassian himself wrote the post. The incel community on 4Chan, Reddit, and other websites are actively attempting to put distance between themselves and Minassian.
In a press conference on Tuesday, a Toronto police spokesperson alluded to the message saying, “the accused is alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook minutes before he started driving the rented van."
Awkward Tech Wiz
A LinkedIn profile that features the same picture as an account on Facebook that has been confirmed to VICE as authentic states that the man went to Seneca College from 2011 to this year. Seneca College is a public college located in North York, Ontario that has about 100,000 students. The Globe and Mail reports that one classmate of Minassian stated he graduated from the college’s computer studies program just a week ago. Online records show him active on school projects until the end of March.
Reports from the Globe and Mail indicate that during his time at Seneca College, Minassian was a wizard with technology but also was immensely socially awkward. The story reads that Minassian “barely spoke, barely functioned, and had difficulty controlling tics.” The story adds that he had no strong political or religious views and that one former classmate of his stated he didn’t even believe the man could rent and drive a vehicle and that they believe that the attack may have been the result of him panicking behind the wheel. Fellow students of Minassian stated that he was quite adept with graphical processing units—specialized computer chips that work to process images.
In a Facebook post, a man named Alexander Alexandrovitch says that he attended Thornlea Secondary School with Minassian. Thornlea is a public high school located in Thornhill, Ontario, which is part of York region and north of Toronto. He wrote that the alleged killer’s antisocial behavior was prominent in his youth as well.
“He was mentally unstable back then,” reads Alenndrovitch’s post. “He was known to meow like a cat and try to bite people, this is one sad and confusing story. Alek Minassian was never intentionally violent but today's act was deliberate.”
Involvement in Military
Minassian had a brief stint in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) last year, VICE News learned. He joined on August 23. According to a statement from Canada’s Department of National Defence, though, Minassian asked to leave 16 days into 13-week basic training.
“He did not complete his recruit training and requested to be voluntarily released from the CAF after 16 days of recruit training. For privacy reasons, we will not comment further on Alek Minassian’s service in the CAF,” National Defence spokesperson Jessica Lamirande told VICE News in an email on Tuesday.
That training, albeit cut short, took place Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec in September.
He was released from service on October 25.
A senior Canadian Forces official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to CBC News said of Minassian and the attack: "He wasn't adapting to the military lifestyle… There were no red flags and nothing that would point to anything like this."
Minassian received no weapons training during his time in the forces, according to the official who spoke to CBC News.
The numbers that Minassian included in a Facebook post shortly before the attack may be military-related, however. The number “00010” is the trade number for the Canadian infantry, and "C23249161" seems to be a legitimate service number. However, the Department of National Defence said it will not confirm military ID numbers since these are protected under the Privacy Act.
Minassian, at least at one point, was an app developer. He made a free Google Play app called “Toronto Green Parking Advisor,” which was meant to help people find and price parking spots in the city. The Toronto Green Parking Advisor app was last updated in 2014.
The description of his app 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.”
Other Online Presences
A LinkedIn account exists for Minassian. It lists him as attending Seneca College from 2011 to 2018 and includes the headshot of him that has been widely circulated in the media since the attack. The profile says Minassian lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario, which is located in the Greater Toronto Area.
No Instagram nor Twitter accounts for Minassian have surfaced as of yet.
He did have a Steam gaming account that has not been active since 2010. Minassian would have been under 18 the last time the account was updated. The bio of that account, “Xboxlightside,” reads in part:
“I love the Halo games. My favorite game is Halo 3 because it has matchmaking. My next favorite 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!”