Four members of a Muslim family in Canada were killed on Sunday and a nine-year-old boy left fighting for his life after a 20-year-old local man plowed his pickup truck into them as they were out for an evening stroll.
Three generations of a family who had immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago were killed – a grandmother, father, mother and teenage daughter, a family friend told AP.
The attack happened in London, Ontario – a city of 500,000 with a Muslim population of around 30,000 people just north of Lake Erie, which is the second fastest-growing in Canada, according to
The driver, Nathaniel Veltman, chose his victims at random and targeted them because of their faith, police said – ramming his black pickup into the family at an intersection.
He was arrested immediately after in the parking lot of a nearby mall after the incident on Sunday night, and is in custody, facing four counts of first-degree murder.
Ed Holder, the mayor of London, Ontario, visits the scene of Sunday’s crash on Monday. Four members of the same Muslim family died in the attack, and a child was seriously injured
Flowers are left at the site where four members of a Muslim family – a grandmother, father, mother and teenage daughter – were mowed down by Nathaniel Veltman in his pickup truck. The tragedy took place in London, Ontario on Sunday
A shrine has blossomed in London, Ontario, in tribute to the four members of the Pakistani family who died in Sunday’s attack
A sign posted at the site reads: ‘Love for all, hatred for none’. The accused perpetrator is facing four counts of murder
London police investigate on Monday the scene of a car crash in London, Ontario. Four people died when Nathaniel Veltman rammed his car into the family as they were out for a walk on Sunday evening
Veltman made his first court appearance on Monday over a phone line from London police headquarters.
Justice of the Peace Terry Steenson placed a publication ban on any evidence at the hearing.
The charges were read to him: one count of attempted murder of a youth ‘by striking him with a motor vehicle, namely a Dodge Ram pickup truck,’ and four first-degree murder charges.
Steenson said bail on murder charges can only be sought in the Superior Court of Justice and ordered Veltman into custody and to return to court on Thursday.
‘To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable – and it must stop,’ said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
‘This was an act of mass murder perpetuated against Muslims,’ said Ed Holder, mayor of London.
‘It was rooted in unspeakable hatred. The magnitude of such hatred can make one question who we were as a city.’
Police said the dead were a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl.
A nine-year-old boy was reported in serious condition.
The family requested the names not be released, officials said.
‘In one act of murder some individual has wiped out three generations of family. It’s horrific,’ said Holder, in an interview with The Associated Press.
Officers on Monday placed blue cones at the scene to mark areas of interest for their investigation
A line of police officers look for evidence at the scene of a car crash in London, Ontario on Monday. The victims, a family that immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago, were out for their nightly walk at the time
Detective Supt. Paul Waight said Veltman was wearing a vest that appeared to be like body armor.
Waight said police did not know at this point if the suspect was a member of any specific hate group.
He said London police are working with federal police and prosecutors to see about potential terrorism charges.
He declined to detail evidence pointing to a possible hate crime, but said the attack was planned.
About a dozen police officers combed the area around the crash site looking for evidence on Monday. Blue markers on the ground dotted the intersection.
‘We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,’ said Stephen Williams, London police chief.
Ed Holder, the mayor of London, left, visits the scene on Monday
‘We understand that this event may cause fear and anxiety in the community, particularly in the Muslim community, in any community targeted by hate.
‘There is no tolerance in this community who are motivated by hate target others with violence.’
Canada is generally welcoming toward immigrants and all religions, but in 2017 a French Canadian man known for far-right, nationalist views went on a shooting rampage at a Quebec City mosque that killed six people.
One woman who witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash said she could not stop thinking about the victims.
Paige Martin said she was stopped at a red light around 8:30pm when the large pickup roared past her.
She said her car shook from the force.
‘I was shaken up, thinking it was an erratic driver,’ Martin said.
Minutes later, she said, she came upon a gruesome, chaotic scene at an intersection near her home, with first responders running to help, a police officer performing chest compressions on one person and three other people lying on the ground.
A few dozen people stood on the sidewalk and several drivers got out of their cars to help.
‘I can’t get the sound of the screams out of my head,’ Martin said.
From her apartment, Martin said she could see the scene and watched an official drape a sheet over one body about midnight.
‘My heart is just so broken for them,’ she said.
A line of police officers use long sticks as they probe for evidence at the scene of the car crash
The family died while waiting to cross a road at an intersection near their home in London
Zahid Khan, the family friend, detailed the three generations among the dead.
He said they were dedicated, decent and generous members of the London mosque.
‘They were just out for their walk that they would go out for every day,’ Khan said through tears near the site of the crash.
‘I just wanted to see.’
Qazi Khalil said he saw the family on Thursday when they were out for their nightly walk.
The families lived close to each other and would get together on holidays, he said.
‘This has totally destroyed me from the inside,’ Khalil said.
‘I can’t really come to the terms they were no longer here.’
A line of police officers look for evidence in the city of 500,000 people, where around 30,000 Muslims live. The city is the second-fastest growing in Canada
London police investigate the scene of a car crash in London, Ontario on Monday
Doug Ford, the premier of Ontario, said his province had no tolerance for ‘hate and Islamophobia’.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said it was beyond horrified, saying Muslims in Canada have become all too familiar with the violence of Islamophobia.
‘This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil, and should be treated as such,’ council head Mustafa Farooq said.
Nawaz Tahir, a London lawyer and Muslim community leader, said: ‘We must confront and stamp out Islamophobia and Islamic violence – not tomorrow, today, for the sake of our children, our family, our communities.’
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