The Toronto van suspect apparently lauded an American mass killer

Shortly before he allegedly killed 10 pedestrians Monday, Alek Minassian may have praised a man who vowed to ...

Posted: Apr 25, 2018 12:38 PM
Updated: Apr 25, 2018 12:38 PM

Shortly before he allegedly killed 10 pedestrians Monday, Alek Minassian may have praised a man who vowed to "destroy" women who rejected him.

"All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!" reads a Facebook page believed to be Minassian's. The accolade apparently refers to the California killer who carried out a "day of retribution" in 2014.

Toronto police said Tuesday that Minassian posted a cryptic message to Facebook just before he allegedly took off in his vehicle. Sgt. Graham Gibson, a homicide detective, said Minassian's feelings about Rodger will be part of the investigation.

Minassian is accused of plowing a rental van into victims along busy Toronto street. So far, police have not cited a possible motive.

A deeper look into Minassian's past reveals an impressionable and socially awkward young man who dropped out of military training and was "terrified" of women, a former classmate says.

Who is this suspect?

- Minassian, 25, is from the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, police said.

- On Monday, he allegedly drove a rented van down the street with reckless abandon, swerving into the wrong lanes of traffic and careening onto a sidewalk. Ten people were killed, and 14 people were injured.

- Minassian was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. Another charge of attempted murder is being considered, officials said.

- Toronto authorities said they had no previous interactions with him, but a US law enforcement official said Minassian had been known to authorities.

- A former classmate said Minassian often succumbed to peer pressure -- such as running down a hallway shirtless when dared by other students. The classmate, who didn't want to be identified, said they bonded during special-needs classes at Windham Ridge Public School and Thornlea Secondary School.

- The classmate said Minassian was very self-deprecating. "If you put him down or disrespected him or insulted him, he would agree with you," the classmate said.

- Minassian also had severe anxiety when interacting with females and would freeze, unable to respond, the classmate said. "He was genuinely terrified with interacting verbally or physically at all, except for his mother," the classmate said.

- Another former classmate said Minassian was odd and kept to himself, but "he was always smiling."

- Minassian served in the Canadian Armed Forces last year, from August to October, a spokeswoman told CNN.

"He did not complete his recruit training and requested to be voluntarily released from the CAF after 16 days of recruit training," the Department of National Defence said. "For privacy reasons, we will not comment further on Alek Minassian's service in the CAF."

What about the motive?

- Authorities haven't released a motive. But, so far, officials are not calling this an act of terrorism. "There would appear to be no national security connection," Canadian Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said.

- Just before the attack, it appears Minassian praised Rodger on his Facebook account, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell said.

Rodger killed six people and injured 14 others in a stabbing, shooting and vehicle-ramming attack in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus.

Investigators noted that Rodger was motivated by a personal grievance related to the extremist ideological subculture of men's rights activists. Supporters believe women don't want gender equality and have been brainwashed by feminist propaganda.

After his rampage, Rodger died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

How was Minassian caught?

- Minassian was arrested about seven minutes after police got a 911 call about the deadly rampage, Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said.

- He may have engaged in a tense standoff with police before his arrest. A cell phone video obtained by CNN partner CTV shows a man standing in front of a white van with a damaged front bumper, but officials haven't confirmed whether the man is Minassian.

The man yells and extends one arm, pointing an object at an officer standing behind a black car.

The officer, his weapon drawn, points at the man. The officer slowly steps toward him and yells "Get down, get down!"

Later in the video, the man is on the ground as the officer cuffs his hands behind him. The object, which Saunders said was not a gun, also drops to the ground.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the date of a Toronto police news conference.

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