3 attempted murder charges added in Toronto van attack case

FILE - In this April 23, 2018, file photo, police stand near a damaged van after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into pedestrians in Toronto. Alek Minassian accused of driving a van into pedestrians faces 16 counts of attempted murder and 10 counts of murder. He made a brief video appearance Thursday, May 10, 2018, to be formally charged with the additional counts stemming from the April 23 incident. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

TORONTO (AP) — Prosecutors filed three additional counts of attempted murder Thursday against a 25-year-old man accused of driving a van into pedestrians in Toronto.

Alek Minassian now faces 16 counts of attempted murder and 10 counts of murder. Minassian stood at attention with his arms straight by his side and said nothing in a brief video appearance before a judge who formally charged him with the additional counts stemming from the April 23 incident.

Authorities have not disclosed a motive. But they have said Minassian posted a message on social media referencing a misogynistic online community before he plowed a rental van into crowds of pedestrians in a busy north Toronto neighborhood. Eight of the 10 people killed were women.

Defense lawyer Boris Bytensky declined to discuss a possible motive except to say that the case should not be considered terrorism.

“This isn’t a time to discuss Mr. Minassian,” Bytensky said outside court. “This is still a grieving period for the city. We have many victims and many families are grieving. Our thoughts and the thoughts of the Minassian family are with them.”

Bytensky said the charges are devastating to the suspect’s family.

“They stand behind their son,” he said. “They are going to allow everyone to grieve. They send their condolences and really their prayers for everyone that’s been affected by this.”

Minassian’s family did not attend the hearing. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 14.

Those who died in last month’s attack ranged in age from 22 to 94 and included a student from South Korea and a man from Jordan.

Shortly before the incident on the crowded Toronto street, a chilling post appeared on Minassian’s now-deleted Facebook account saluting Elliot Rodger, a community college student who killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara before apparently shooting himself to death.

Calling Rodger “the Supreme Gentleman,” the Facebook post declared: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!”

The 22-year-old Rodger had used the term “incel” — for involuntarily celibate — in online posts raging at women for rejecting him romantically. Like-minded people in internet forums sometimes use “Chad” and “Stacy” as dismissive slang for men and women with more robust sex lives.

The Facebook post mentions that “Private (Recruit) Minassian” is speaking, and Facebook confirmed that the account belonged to the suspect.

Minassian joined the Canadian Armed Forces last year, but his service was brief. He was a member of the military from Aug. 23 to Oct. 25, but didn’t complete his recruit training. He asked to be voluntarily released, the Department of National Defense said.

The anti-women sentiment recalled the 1989 massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique, an engineering college in Montreal, when 25-year-old Marc Lepine entered a classroom, separated the men from the women, told the men to leave and opened fire, killing 14 women before killing himself. In a suicide note, he blamed feminists for ruining his life.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.