The Toronto Van Attack Suspect Praised An Anti-Women Community On Facebook

Authorities say the 25-year-old plowed through crowds on one of the busiest streets in Toronto, killing at least 10 people and injuring another 14.

A 25-year-old man was identified Monday as the suspect in a van attack on a crowded Toronto street that left 10 people dead and 14 others injured.

LinkedIn / Via

Alek Minassian, from Richmond Hill, Ontario, was apprehended shortly after the deadly incident, officials said.

He appeared in court on Tuesday morning, where he was charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. He will remain in custody until his next hearing on May 10.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said the carnage appeared to be deliberate, although officials said that they do not yet know the motive for the attack.

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said the incident had "no national security connection." Officials said he had no criminal record prior to the attack and did not appear to have a connection to international terrorist groups.

A Facebook profile for the suspect, deleted shortly after the attack, included a post written Monday with anti-women references.


In the hours after the attack, an unverified Facebook profile for the suspect emerged with a post referencing the anonymous online forum 4chan, which is often the source of online hate and hoaxes. A Facebook employee speaking on background confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the since-removed profile for the suspect was authentic.

The post featured a reference to “The Incel Rebellion.” The word “Incel” stands for “involuntary celibate,” which is an online community of men who are sexually frustrated and often channel that frustration into anti-woman hate. The Facebook employee told BuzzFeed that message was posted shortly before they removed the profile.

Reddit banned the Incel community from its website last year after updating its policy to ban glorification and incitement of violence. The chat board frequently advocated for sexual violence and hate against women.

He also referenced Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in 2014 near the University of California at Santa Barbara. Rodger, who killed himself, wrote an anti-woman manifesto, saying he lived an "existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me."

At a press conference Tuesday, officials said Minassian posted the "cryptic" message on Facebook moments before he began mowing people down on one of the busiest streets in the country. The victims were "predominantly female," said Detective Sergeant Graham Gibson of Toronto police's homicide division, adding that their ages ranged from mid-20s to early 80s.

Authorities are digging into Minassian's praise of Rodger, Gibson confirmed, saying they are looking at "all aspects" of his social media.

Minassian spent two months in late 2017 as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, the National Defence confirmed on Tuesday.

Stringer / Reuters

Minassian was a recruit from August 23 until October 25.

"He did not complete his recruit training and requested to be voluntarily released from the CAF after 16 days of recruit training," National Defence officials said in a statement.

A LinkedIn account for someone with the same name identifies Minassian as a student at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Ontario, beginning in 2011.

linkedin / Via

Following Monday's attack, the president of Seneca College, David Agnew, tweeted that the school "is monitoring the tragic incident," noting that members of the community are "heavy users" of the north Toronto transit hub where the attack took place.

@SenecaCollege is monitoring the tragic incident at Yonge & Finch today - our community is a heavy user of that public transit hub. Our thoughts are with all affected.

"The Seneca community is deeply saddened by the horrific attack on Yonge Street yesterday," the school said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "Our thoughts are with all those affected, including the family and friends of one of our students who died as a result of the tragic incident. Along with the rest of the city, and world, we are extremely troubled by yesterday’s events."

It appears that Minassian was enrolled in Seneca’s Centre for Development of Open Technology (CDOT), which focuses on developing open-source software.

CDOT / Via

Multiple projects at Seneca's CDOT, dated from 2013 to 2018, listed Minassian as a team member. Those projects included a Google Play app called Toronto Green Parking Advisor, which was launched in 2014 and is described as a way "to search for parking locations in Toronto near a given address."

Minassian also appears to have worked on an open-source software project at the school titled "Mobile Medical Device Integration," which is described as "a personal health record system which was created to give patients the freedom to see their medical records."

A former classmate, Joseph Pham, told BuzzFeed News he did a programming course at Seneca College with Minassian.

"He was slightly awkward," said Pham, noting that Minassian usually "kept to himself but participated in class lectures."

"There was no sign of aggression or hatred towards anybody. In fact, he was quite intelligent. He always had good questions to ask our professor and seemed to do well on his assignments," said Pham, a third-year student.

A classmate of Minassian's at Seneca College, who asked to remain anonymous, told BuzzFeed News that the suspect "was just a weird and awkward person. But extremely smart."

Still, the classmate said he "couldn't imagine him doing something like this."

"He was extremely bright, and I presumed had a bright future ahead of him due to his immense amount of experience," the student said. "He was easily one of the best students in the class I had him in."

The classmate said that Minassian had sent him a message on April 19, after completing the last course needed to graduate.

"Finally finished college. Fuck you all and good riddance," Minassian wrote, according to the classmate.

The student said that the program he and Minassian were enrolled in usually takes between three and four years to complete, but said he believed that the suspect had been at the school since 2011 because he had switched programs and was working full-time as a software developer.

Tara, who said she was a classmate of Minassian's in primary school, told BuzzFeed News that as a child he often had outbursts, tantrums, and other behavioral problems.

Courtesy Tara

Minissian's Grade 5 and Grade 4 yearbook photo from Sixteenth Avenue Public school.

Tara said that she and her sister attended school with Minassian from day care until they were about 10 years old. BuzzFeed News is withholding their last name.

"He had tantrums all the time and would hit people," she said, recalling his behavior at Sixteenth Avenue Public School in Richmond Hill, Ontario. "He had a lot of behavioral issues and had someone there with him making sure he wouldn't get into trouble."

Still, Tara said her friends and other former classmates were stunned by Monday's incident, and "freaked out when we saw it was him." Tara confirmed that Minassian studied at Seneca College, though she says she lost touch with him after their fifth year in primary school.

"He was an angry kid," she said. "But you still never believe this could happen."