What do we know about Alek Minassian, arrested after Toronto van attack?
The Toronto van attack suspect praised mass shooter Elliot Rodger and referenced a misogynistic online community of angry celibate men in a Facebook message he posted minutes before ten people were killed.
Alek Minassian, who is charged with 10 counts of premeditated murder, posted on social media about the ‘incel’ subculture of men who blame women for their involuntary celibacy.
The 25-year-old was arrested after a rented vehicle ploughed into a crowd, leaving a further 15 people hospitalised, and also faces multiple counts of attempted murder.
Incel – short for “involuntary celibate” – is often used in connection with online groups of sexually frustrated men who are known to rant against women.
The message which appeared on his profile also referred to ‘Chads’ and ‘Stacys’ – dismissive slang for men and women with more active sex lives – and said that the "incel rebellion has already begun".
‘The Incel Rebellion’
“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!” the Facebook post said.
It also referred to California gunman Rodger, who killed six people in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara, in 2014, before killing himself, as “the Supreme Gentleman”.
In a video posted before the attack, “virgin killer” Rodger had ranted about women turning down his advances and in his 141-page manifesto -‘My Twisted World’- had expressed frustration about being unable to lose his virginity.
Facebook has confirmed a message linked to an account matching Minassian was posted publicly before the social network shut it down.
“There is absolutely no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts,” a spokesperson said.
Map: Toronto van attack route
Police say the victims of the attack in northern Toronto on Monday evening were “predominantly women”, but declined to comment on the hypothesis Minassian was angry against women, adding it was “going to be part of our investigation”.
“The accused is alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook minutes before” the attack, Graham Gibson, a Toronto police detective sergeant, said.
Video footage showed a suspect being handcuffed after a tense stand-off with armed police. Authorities are still attempting to establish a definitive motive for the attack, but say his actions were undoubtedly deliberate.
In his first court appearance, he showed little emotion as he stood in the dock, wearing a white prison jumpsuit, his head shaved and his arms behind his back.
A socially awkward tech expert
Former classmates of Minassian have described him as a socially awkward but gifted student who graduated from his college course only last week.
The Globe and Mail spoke to three of Minassian’s former classmates who described him as being socially awkward, believing he may have suffered from a social or mental disability.
Minassian kept mostly to himself at school, and seemed to constantly rub his head or hands – a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), they added.
He lives in nearby Richmond Hill and has been a student for the past few years at Seneca College, according to his LinkedIn page. One classmate said he graduated from the college only last week.
Another student, who worked with Minassian on a school project in 2015, expressed his surprise that the suspect was even capable of hiring and driving a vehicle, adding he didn’t know how a steering wheel worked when he knew him.
Other classmates suggested he had never exhibited any indication of possessing extremist views or violent tendencies and was described by one couple as being “friendly”.
One student said Minassian did not interact particularly well with other students, but would not describe him as a loner.
Ari Blaff, who went to secondary school with Minassian, recalled that “he wasn’t overly social” when he knew him.
“I’m not sure if he had any very, very close friends, at least publicly,” he told CBC News. “I never saw him with a group of friends, generally. But whenever we would see him in the hallways, we’d always speak to him or say hi to him or whatnot.
“I remember seeing him probably just walking down the halls, usually by himself, or in the cafeteria by himself.”
He recalls Minassian’s behaviour as being “usually quite strange” and said he “made people feel uneasy around him”, however he “never noticed anything violent” about the suspect.
Minassian was also regarded as an IT expert at school with comprehensive knowledge of computer chips, according to his former classmates.
Police now inside home of Toronto van suspect. Alek Minassian lives in Richmond Hill, north of Toronto. (Picture by CBC's Natalie Nanowski). pic.twitter.com/DGPAB8VfZa
— CBC News Alerts (@CBCAlerts) April 23, 2018
His name is listed as a developer on a number of apps, including one that found parking spots in the Toronto area.
A college classmate, who wished to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed he was “extremely bright” and said he “couldn’t imagine him doing something like this”.
The student said after Minassian completed his last course at the college on April 19, he sent him the message: “Finally finished college. F–k you all and good riddance.”
He is believed to have attended the college for seven years while also working in several software development jobs. Officers were searching his home on Monday night.
Not previously known to police
Mark Saunders, Toronto police chief, said the suspect had not been known to police previously.
“Based on what we have there’s nothing that has it to compromise the national security at this time,” he told a news briefing after being asked if there was any like to international terrorism.
Investigators are still working to establish a motive for the van rampage, Mr Saunders declined to speculate but said the driver’s actions “definitely looked deliberate”.
“We are looking very strongly to what the exact motivation was for this particular incident to take place,” he told a press conference.
“At the end of the day, we will have a fulsome answer, and we will have a fulsome account as to what the conclusion of this is.”
NBC news cited American and Canadian law enforcement officials saying that mental illness was the leading theory for a motive, rather than terrorism.