The driver behind a terror attack on Toronto pedestrians made his first court appearance this morning as the question of motive still percolates. Alek Minassian did not enter a plea to ten counts of murder and thirteen more of attempted murder when appearing before a judge, who ordered him held until another hearing in May. Prosecutors offered no theory of motive at this time, although some had expected to find out more:
The driver suspected of killing 10 people and injuring 15 others when he plowed a rental van into pedestrians in Toronto made his first court appearance on Tuesday, where details of a motive for the attack were expected to emerge.
While the worst mass killing in Canada in decades has the hallmarks of other deadly vehicle assaults by Islamic State supporters in the United States and Europe, officials said it did not represent a threat to national security.
In fact, prime minister Justin Trudeau emphasized that the incident hasn’t resulted in any change to Canada’s threat assessment, even with its similarities to radical-Islamist attacks in New York City and Europe. That seems rather remarkable considering the international forum taking place in Toronto at the moment:
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says authorities see no national security element in the seeming attack on pedestrians in Canada’s largest city.
Trudeau says the incident “hasn’t changed the overall threat level in Canada,” though it occurred as Cabinet ministers from the G7 nations are meeting in Toronto. …
Police are trying to determine why a driver plowed a rented van along a crowded sidewalk in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 15 in what many said seemed a deliberate attack.
So what was the motive? For now, it looks like mental illness played some role, as well as extremist political and social positions of another nature. CNN reports that Minassian hailed another mass murderer from 2014 just before he went on his rampage:
Just before the van plowed down pedestrians, it appears Minassian lauded an American mass killer on his Facebook account, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell said.
“All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” reads the message on the account investigators believe belongs to Minassian, Campbell said.
Rodger killed six people and injured 14 others in a stabbing, shooting and vehicle-ramming attack in 2014 near the UC Santa Barbara campus.
Investigators noted that Rodger was motivated by a personal grievance related to the extremist ideological subculture of men’s rights activists propagated in online forums, such as 4Chan, Campbell said. Supporters believe women don’t want gender equality and have been brainwashed by feminist propaganda.
Reuters dug into his background and discovered Minassian was a social misfit who had been channeled into “special needs” classes in school, a somewhat broader category in Canada than in the US:
Shereen Chami said her former classmate was not violent. She said Minassian was part of a program at Thornlea Secondary School, in Toronto’s northern suburbs, for high school students with special needs, attending a mix of mainstream and separate classes.
Chami remembers him walking the halls with his hands together and his head down, and making meowing noises.
“He wasn’t a social person, but from what I remember he was absolutely harmless,” she said.
Two other classmates said they attended classes for students with special needs alongside Minassian. Special needs is a blanket term used in the Canadian education system that covers learning and behavioral difficulties as well as physical disabilities.
In other words, this likely has more in common with the Parkland shooter than with radical Islamists. Minassian may have just borrowed the method from the latter, given the accessibility to the weapon and the difficulty of defending against it. It certainly turned out to be just as deadly.
One major difference between Minassian and his alleged “hero” is that Minassian didn’t kill himself at the end of his rampage. In video taken of his capture (also shown by the CBC and CNN), however, it looks like he’s daring the police to finish the job for him:
He keeps making a motion as if drawing a weapon, and he has something in his hand. Give police massive amounts of credit for their discipline in not shooting him, perhaps foiling the perp’s plot to commit suicide by cop. Perhaps with him in custody, we will get a clearer indication of his state of mind and motivation, although he appears to be disturbed enough that he might just end up permanently committed to a mental institution.