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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, In Homeland Security
At least 10 people were killed and about 15 others were injured on Monday, when a white Ryder van mounted a curb and plowed into pedestrians on a busy street in downtown Toronto.
Police arrested the alleged driver, Alek Minassian, 25, of the Richmond Hill area, according to the Toronto Star. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Minassian’s name did not trigger any red flags relating to terrorism. However, the motive for his alleged attack remains unclear.
The incident was horrendous, Goodale told reporters. “But it does not appear to be connected in any way to national security.”
The suspect was due in court Tuesday morning.
Toronto Police Chief Says It’s Too Early to Dismiss Terrorism as Attack Motive
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders stated that it was too early in the investigation to dismiss terrorism as a motive, but so far, he said, there was no evidence pointing to that.
“This is very early in the investigation; there’s no avenue we won’t explore,” Saunders told reporters. “We open all lanes at the start and follow wherever the evidence takes us.”
Security Strengthened at Major City Venues
A number of the injured pedestrians were taken to Sunnybrook Hospital. The hospital promptly beefed up its security and locked down its emergency room, spokesperson Craig DuHamel said.
As a precaution, Toronto’s urban transit police positioned additional safety officers at Union Station. Security was also heightened at the Air Canada Centre, which was hosting a National Hockey League playoff game that evening.
The North York Police Department announced it would deploy counterterrorism officers in and around Toronto as a precaution.
Toronto police called in its evening and midnight crews early to help with the investigation. Non-uniformed officers were on standby, Police Chief Saunders told reporters.
Toronto police are leading the investigation with assistance from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are primarily responsible for national security, OPP Staff Sgt. Carol Dionne explained. Both police organizations have anti-terrorism units.
Videos from the Scene Offer Conflicting Versions of Police Arrest
According to the Star, video taken at the scene showed the suspect pleading to be killed. Minassian is heard to shout, “Shoot me in the head.”
But a cell phone video obtained by CNN partner CTV “appears to show a man standing in front of a white van with a damaged front bumper. The man is yelling and extending one arm, pointing an object at an officer standing behind a black car.
“The officer has his weapon drawn and pointed at the man. The officer slowly steps toward him and yells ‘Get down, get down!’”
Monday’s carnage stretched for about a mile along Yonge Street and lasted just 26 minutes, from the first alarm to the arrest of the suspect, the Star reported.