A police officer stands over a covered body in Toronto after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into a number of pedestrians on Monday, April 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Toronto police officer ‘gave himself the space and time’ in van attack

Footage shows officer standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect

Experts say the powerful video of Alek Minassian’s arrest reveals a textbook case of an officer defusing danger through a series of life-and-death choices based on training and a calm mind.

The footage shows an officer who police sources identified as Const. Ken Lam standing up, turning off his siren and talking clearly to the suspect, even as the dead and injured lay along Yonge Street after being struck down by a white rental van.

“This is exactly the type of de-escalation … and response to these types of confrontations that we hope to see,” said Ontario ombudsman Paul Dube.

Lam calmly holstered his service weapon, held up his baton and handcuffed Minassian as he lay on the sidewalk.

“He gave himself the space and time. He assessed the threat and realized he had options other than firing his weapon.”

Dube published a June 2016 report calling for increased police training on defusing dangerous situations after several high-profile deaths of people with mental illnesses who confronted officers.

He said the constable’s actions are a sign that police are gaining from training that includes simulations of tense standoffs with people who are emotionally unstable.

Sammy Yatim’s death in July 2013 in Toronto — where the mentally ill man was shot multiple times as officers surrounded an empty streetcar he was on — helped prompt reforms.

RELATED: Toronto van attack suspect faces 10 counts of first-degree murder

In recent years at least one day has been added to Toronto police in-service training on de-escalation and “dealing with people in crisis,” said Mike McCormack, president of the police union in Toronto.

The program is part of a mandatory three-day training for all officers that incorporates crisis communication, de-escalation and containment measures.

“A major component of this training includes a variety of scenarios that are designed to evaluate officer’s skills in effectively communicating with people in crisis and those who are suffering from a possible mental disorder,” said an email from the union.

Meanwhile, recruits at the Ontario Police College are now receiving more training, as are a number of police forces around the province, though it’s yet to be a provincewide standard, said Dube.

Christian Leuprecht, a professor at Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., who studies policing and security issues, said Lam’s actions were “textbook” examples of the latest approaches.

The result is a suspect who is now in custody and who may be able to shed light on why the devastating incident occurred, he said.

RELATED: Officer’s actions ‘one shining moment’ in wake of attack

“That particular situation yesterday, the way in which it went down was nothing short of remarkable,” Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told a news conference Tuesday.

Saunders said he spoke to Lam, and the officer is doing well and thankful for the public’s support. Lam told him ”he defaulted to his training,” the chief said.

Police say Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., is the lone suspect in the attack. He was charged Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

Leuprecht noted how Lam only stood up after carefully observing the suspect and determining he didn’t have a gun.

Lam spoke loudly and calmly, even as the suspect encouraged the officer to shoot him. When he claimed to have a gun in his pocket, Lam replied, “I don’t care,” and repeatedly instructed him to “Get down.”

Leuprecht said Lam seemed to go further than some others might have when he decided to approach and arrest the suspect, rather than wait for backup.

“There’s an impressive moment when he takes his firearm, puts it in his holster, he goes over with his baton, and he handcuffs the individual,” he said.

“I think that goes above and beyond the call of duty. He could have had a knife. He could have had a suicide belt.”

However, the university professor, who is currently teaching in Australia, says if the constable had waited for backup, the situation might have escalated and had a different outcome.

“The opportunity to ensure the individual could no longer pose a chance of harm to himself or to others is what that officer jumped at,” said Leuprecht.

McCormack said while additional training is a factor, he knows Lam well enough to say his personality factored in.

He described him as an intelligent, relatively young officer who is highly skilled and trained.

McCormack says the constable — who is in his 30s — positioned himself well so that he could see precisely what was unfolding before him.

“By his actions he did not perceive the threat to escalate and that is why he did not use his firearm,” he said.

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

VIDEO: Black horse signals ‘sign of peace’ for Tsilhqot’in Nation

Justin Trudeau rides black horse provided by Cooper family

Trudeau exonerates hanged war chiefs of 1864 on B.C. Tsilhqot’in title lands

Prime minister rides horseback with Chief Joe Alphonse, TNG Chairman, to Xeni Gwet’in meeting place

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Rain, snowfall warnings in effect across B.C.

B.C.’s Interior set to get hit with snow while the Lower Mainland is expected to see more rain

Turn your clocks back: Daylight Saving time ends Sunday

Don’t forget to turn back your clock, change your batteries

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Provincial housing boss brought home more than $350,000 in 2017-18

BC Housing develops, manages and administers a wide range of subsidized housing options

Prince Charles turns 70 with party, new family photos

Charles is due to have tea on Wednesday with a group of people who are also turning 70 this year

Calgarians vote ‘no’ to bidding for 2026 Winter Games, in plebiscite

Out of 767,734 eligible voters, 304,774 voted and 171,750 said ”no.”

West Fraser to reduce sawmill production in Quesnel, Fraser Lake

The move will affect 75 employees in Quesnel, 60 in Fraser Lake

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Loggers pull door off wreckage to get to Cariboo crash victim

“It’s an absolute miracle the man’s alive.”

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

Most Read