The Toronto attack suspect begged police to shoot him before being arrested in connection with the death of ten pedestrians killed after a van mounted a pavement.
As victims of the attack were left strewn across the street Alek Minassian was locked in a tense police stand-off, during which video footage showed him telling officers he had a gun and shouting: “Shoot me in the head”.
In the video Minassian shouts that he has a gun and then says: “Kill me.” The officer, hailed a hero for not opening fire, declines and demands Minassian “get down” before he is arrested.
Witnesses described a van driver mounting a kerb and swerving to deliberately hit pedestrians, leaving a pushchair “split in half” and hitting people sitting on a bench. The suspect was later named by police as Minassian, a 25-year-old student.
Addressing a news conference in the evening, Mark Saunders, the Toronto police chief, said the suspect had not been armed and that there was nothing so far to suggest terrorism as a motive.”It’s very clear from a general perspective that the actions looked deliberate,” he said, describing how the van had driven on the wrong side of the road and mounted the pavement.
Numerous body bags were seen in the street after the attack, according to testimonies of people in the city, with one describing the scene as a “war zone”.
There were also accounts of victims with faces “full of blood” and twisted limbs, with one witness suggesting the van drove more than half a mile hitting people.
The incident occurred in the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area of the city, according to police, which is around 18 miles north of the city centre. It began around 1.30pm Toronto time on Monday.
Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, was attending a meeting of G7 ministers in the city, but the gathering was not near the site of the incident.
Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, said: “We’re still gathering information and as soon as we can, we’ll share more information with Canadians.”
Mr Trudeau added: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by the terrible incident at Yonge and Finch in Toronto. Thank you to the first responders working at the scene – we’re monitoring the situation closely”.
Numerous witnesses, many of whom appeared shaken by the incident, described seeing the van swerving to hit pedestrians.
James Forrester saw the aftermath of the incident from the 19th floor of an office building where he works as a financial services representative with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.
“Police were just arriving, people were screaming, there were bodies on the ground, and I saw a lot of blood,” he told The Telegraph.
Mr Forrester described seeing three dead bodies on the pavement covered by orange sheets, about 10 ambulances, seven police cars and an estimated crowd of 30 onlookers.
He added that the white van travelled about two kilometres before it was stopped by police, and that as many as 40 people may have been hit.
Henry Miller, who lives in an apartment overlooking the street, told Sky News: “I heard a large amount of honking…and I stepped out onto the balcony to see what was causing the trouble and at this point I saw a lady lying on the floor and the van driving off with people running around trying to help her”.
Mr Miller said the white van “[sped] probably 60-70mph down this major road, swerving to what I would say fairly deliberately hit pedestrians and swerving in and out of traffic before eventually careering off into one of the other side streets and out of view”.
One witness described seeing a middle-aged man “barely moving” on the ground after being hit. He told CNN: “I feel sick to my stomach … I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Kash Alavi, another witness, described seeing victims with faces “full of blood”, telling CNN that the legs of those hit had been “twisted and contorted”.
Another witness speaking to the network who did not give his name became emotional describing how the van swerved to repeatedly hit pedestrians.
“He’s just hitting people one by one by one. It was a nightmare,” he said. The van “just went on the side walk and started hitting everyone”, he added.