A man driving a pickup truck slammed into and killed four members of a Muslim family in Ontario, Canada, in what police and officials on Monday said was a premeditated attack motivated by “hatred.”
A 20-year-old suspect wearing a vest “like body armor” fled the scene on Sunday evening, and was arrested at a mall 7km from the intersection in London, Ontario, where the attack happened, Detective Superintendent Paul Waight said.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” he told a news conference.
Canadian Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair described it as a “horrific act of Islamophobia.”
“They believe the family was targeted because of their faith, and that the attacker was motivated by his hatred of Muslims,” he said.
The names of the victims were not released, but they include a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl — together representing three generations of the same family, London Mayor Ed Holder said.
A nine-year-old boy was also hospitalized following the attack and is recovering.
“Let me be clear, this was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, rooted in unspeakable hatred,” Holder said.
Bouquets of flowers were seen at the scene of the attack. A vigil in memory of the victims was to take place at a local mosque yesterday.
The suspect, identified as Nathaniel Veltman, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.
Waight said local authorities are also liaising with federal police and the attorney general about adding “possible terrorism charges.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote on Twitter that he was “horrified” by the attack.
“To the loved ones of those who were terrorized by yesterday’s act of hatred, we are here for you,” he said, singling out the nine-year-old in hospital.
“To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable — and it must stop,” he added.
Police said that at 8:40pm on Sunday, the five family members were walking together along a sidewalk when a black pickup truck “mounted the curb and struck” them as they waited to cross the intersection.
Waight offered few details of the investigation, but said the suspect’s social media postings were reviewed by police.
The attack, which brought back painful memories of a Quebec City mosque mass shooting in January 2017 and a driving rampage in Toronto that killed 10 people in April 2018, drew swift condemnation.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement it was “beyond horrified and demands justice” for the family who was just “out for a walk” on a warm spring evening.
“This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and must be treated as such,” council president Mustafa Farooq told Radio Canada.
The Muslim Association of Canada also called on authorities to “prosecute this horrific attack as an act of hate and terrorism.”
“Hate and Islamophobia have NO place in Ontario,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford wrote on Twitter. “These heinous acts of violence must stop.”
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