Toronto van attack suspect charged with murder, motive a mystery

TORONTO, April 24 (Reuters) - The driver accused of plowing a rental van into pedestrians in Toronto was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder on Tuesday, but his motive remained a mystery.

The deadliest mass killing in Canada in decades, which took the lives of two South Korean citizens, has the hallmarks of other deadly vehicle assaults by Islamic State supporters, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday there was no reason to suspect any national security connection.

Suspect Alek Minassian, 25, appeared in a courtroom in Canada's largest city, where prosecutors charged him in the death of 10 pedestrians and injury of 15 others in the lunchtime attack that saw him drive a Ryder van for about a mile (1.6 km) along a crowded sidewalk.

Minassian kept his shaved head down during the hearing, speaking quietly with a defense lawyer and stated his name in a steady voice when asked to do so.

Details about the dead began to emerge on Tuesday, with a South Korean foreign ministry representative saying that two of that country's citizens were killed and one injured in the attack. The representative spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

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Several pedestrians killed after van strikes people in Toronto
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Several pedestrians killed after van strikes people in Toronto
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Toronto police responds to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
People react to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Toronto police investigates an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
People react to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
An unidentified body is seen near the crime scene after a truck hit several pedestrians in Toronto, Ontario, on on April 23, 2018. - A man drove a white rental van into a crowd of pedestrians in the center of Canada's biggest city Toronto on April 23, 2018, injuring as many as 10 people, police said.Canadian media reported at least four fatalities, but that was not yet confirmed by police. The vehicle fled the scene, but the driver was later arrested.'Update: unknown of extent of injuries, possible 8 - 10 pedestrians struck,' Toronto police wrote on Twitter. (Photo by Lars Hagberg / AFP) (Photo credit should read LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
Firemen cover a victim of an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A pedestrian, who police say was a witness to a van striking multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs, reacts in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
A pedestrian officer responds to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
A pedestrian walks along a police crime scene tape near where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Toronto police investigates an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Donovan
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
A police officer responds to an incident where a van struck multiple people at a major intersection in Toronto's northern suburbs in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 23 - Police have Yonge Street blocked off at Parkview Avenue where on of the victims lies on the East side of the street as the Police investigate a van that ran down pedestrians along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. April 23, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: A police officer enters his police car at the cordoned off Yonge St. at Finch Ave. after a van plowed into pedestrians on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Law enforcement and first responders on scene at Yonge St. at Finch Ave. after a van plows into pedestrians April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Police officers stand near the crime scene after a truck hit several pedestrians in Toronto, Ontario, on on April 23, 2018. - A man drove a white rental van into a crowd of pedestrians in the center of Canada's biggest city Toronto on April 23, 2018, injuring as many as 10 people, police said.Canadian media reported at least four fatalities, but that was not yet confirmed by police. The vehicle fled the scene, but the driver was later arrested.'Update: unknown of extent of injuries, possible 8 - 10 pedestrians struck,' Toronto police wrote on Twitter. (Photo by Lars Hagberg / AFP) (Photo credit should read LARS HAGBERG/AFP/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 23 - Police have Yonge Street blocked off at Parkview Avenue where on of the victims lies on the East side of the street as the Police investigate a van that ran down pedestrians along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. April 23, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- APRIL 23 - Police have Yonge Street blocked off at Parkview Avenue where on of the victims lies on the East side of the street as the Police investigate a van that ran down pedestrians along Yonge Street between Sheppard and Finch streets in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. April 23, 2018. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 23: Police inspect a van suspected of being involved in a collision injuring at least eight people at Yonge St. and Finch Ave. on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
#UPDATE: Toronto Police confirm a van mounted the curb and hit a number of pedestrians. The driver fled the scene.… https://t.co/ithoyep0bK
There is a Ryder van up on the curb on Poyntz Ave, just south of Yonge & Sheppard. Overheard “…they shot him”. Heli… https://t.co/H7cmfh1mk2
JUST IN: A van has collided with numerous pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, according to police. The extent of the in… https://t.co/gAQ8tk4vaj
More: Toronto subway service shut down after report that a van struck a number of people at Yonge Street and Finch… https://t.co/PvcqdMcf8H
JUST IN: Toronto police say pedestrians have been struck by a van, number of injuries are unknown https://t.co/hmCuVriMwU
I’ve now walked up Yonge St from north of Sheppard to Finch. I have passed multiple dead bodies covered up, shoes a… https://t.co/0BLR83tXJK
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Trudeau called on all Canadians to stand united with Toronto as flowers and scrawled messages in multiple languages piled up at a makeshift memorial in Toronto's north end, an ethnically diverse neighborhood of towering office buildings, shops, restaurants and homes.

"We cannot as Canadians choose to live in fear every single day as we go about our daily business," Trudeau told reporters outside of parliament in Ottawa. "We need to focus on doing what we can and we must to keep Canadians safe while we stay true to the freedoms and values that we all as Canadians hold dear."

The prime minister said that, while it would take time before the motives of the attacker were understood, the incident had not changed the country's threat level or security preparations for a G7 summit in Quebec in June.

The Canadian flag was lowered to half-staff at parliament and at Toronto city hall.

Minassian, who was not previously known to authorities, attended a high school program where one classmate remembered him as "absolutely harmless."

The suspect's two-story red-brick home in a suburb north of Toronto was a crime scene Tuesday, taped off and surrounded by police vehicles. Officers went in and out of the house.

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Victims of the Toronto van attack
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Victims of the Toronto van attack

Anne Marie D'Amico 

Photo Credit: Facebook/Anne Marie D'Amico

#Breaking: The owner of Copacabana restaurant has confirmed that chef Chul Min “Eddie” Kang was one of the victims… https://t.co/C1oYV7aS3P

Dorothy Sewell, 80.

Photo Credit: Facebook/Elwood Delaney

Munir Abdo Habib al-Najar

Munir Abdo Habib al-Najar a Jordan native, was visiting Toronto with one his children.

 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Two Victims from South Korea

At this time their names have not been made public, but their families have been notified.

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

One female college student

The victim's name is not known at this time but a statement from Seneca College in Toronto confirms the young woman's passing. 

 REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

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The officer who apprehended Minassian was praised for making a peaceful arrest even as the suspect shouted "Kill me" and claimed to have a gun.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp identified one of the victims as Anne Marie D'Amico, an employee of asset manager Invesco Canada. In a statement, Invesco confirmed that one of its employees had been killed, but did not name her.

The attack shook the usually peaceful streets of Toronto, a multicultural city with a population of 2.8 million. The city recorded 61 murders last year.

The drama started at lunchtime on a warm spring day, when the driver drove his vehicle into the crowds. The street was soon covered in blood, empty shoes and bodies.

Canada is still recovering from the shock of a highway crash in Saskatchewan earlier this month that killed 16 people on a bus carrying a junior hockey team.

Last October, eight people died in New York when a man driving a rented pickup truck mowed down pedestrians and cyclists on a bike path. The Islamic State militant group encourages its supporters to use vehicles for attacks.

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny and Allision Martell; additional reporting by Andrea Hopkins in Ottawa; writing by Scott Malone; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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