One Minute, No Gunshots: Toronto Officer Takes Down Van SuspectBy and
A van attack that is among the worst mass killings in Canadian history ended without a shot being fired, elevating a Toronto police officer to hero status.
A driver mowed down pedestrians Monday along a busy stretch of Yonge Street in Toronto’s north end, killing 10 and wounding 15. It ended with a showdown captured on video, where the suspect faced off with a single police officer. News outlets including the Toronto Star and CBC identified the officer Tuesday as Constable Ken Lam.
The videos show that Lam sought cover behind a cruiser, his gun drawn. The other man wielded an object -- a cellphone, it appears in retrospect -- as if it were a firearm, standing in front of the white van apparently used in the attack, its front end heavily damaged. The two men were about two car-lengths apart, with sirens blaring in the background.
“Shoot me in the head,” the man shouted, jabbing his hand in the air as if firing a gun. But the officer didn’t fire. The man walked toward the officer, getting close enough to almost touch. The officer didn’t fire. Soon after, the man gave up, dropping the item in his hand and falling to his knees. The officer, still facing the suspect on his own, handcuffed the man against the pavement. The whole encounter lasted about a minute.
“He was more concerned with the victims than himself, but he’s certainly feeling the weight of the day,” Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said in a telephone interview Monday after speaking with the officer. The seven-year veteran’s division includes the area of the attack -- effectively, the officer’s backyard, the union chief said.
“He reacted to what he was seeing and his training, and if there was any other indication or any other increase in the threat, there may have been lethal force that could have been used,” McCormack said. “He said ‘I made the judgment call based on the training, what I was seeing.’ And it was the right decision.”
The officer has downplayed his role, the union president said, brushing aside praise by asking about the victims. McCormack said the incident is not one the police force will move on from quickly.
“This is going to change people. It’s obviously a very traumatic event and everybody’s just devastated for the victims and the families,” he said. “It was a horrific scene.”
Toronto Police say they arrested 25-year-old Alek Minassian in the ordeal. In a press conference Monday evening, Police Chief Mark Saunders confirmed the suspect was unarmed. He was charged Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 of attempted murder, according to broadcaster CP24.
— With assistance by Doug Alexander