The suspect in the Toronto van attack that killed 10 people and injured 15 others on Monday is a 25-year-old man named Alek Minassian from the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill. (Alek Minassian/LinkedIn)

UPDATED: 10 killed, 15 injured after van hits pedestrians in Toronto

Toronto police say ten people have died and 15 are injured

UPDATE: 6:30 p.m.

The death toll rose to at least 10 late Monday following a “horrific attack” in which a young man drove a van into a crowd of pedestrians along a stretch of one of Toronto’s busiest streets, authorities said.

The federal public safety minister said the incident, which also left 15 people injured, did not appear to be connected in any way to national security. However, the city’s police Chief Mark Saunders said investigators would be exploring all avenues.

“The actions definitely look deliberate,” Saunders said.

The suspect was identified as Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., and authorities said he was not known to police.

“We are looking very strongly to what the exact motivation was for this particular incident to take place,” Saunders said. “We need every single piece of this puzzle so we can have a fulsome picture and account as to exactly what took place here.”

The incident occurred at 1:30 p.m. when police said they started receiving calls about a white van mounting a sidewalk along a stretch of Yonge Street — between Finch Avenue and Sheppard Avenue — and hitting pedestrians.

Phil Zullo said he was driving north on Yonge Street when he saw police chasing a vehicle. Moments later he said he realized why.

“I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers,” Zullo said. “It was awful. Brutal. Just people everywhere. People — shoes and shirts and ball caps on the floor, and some of the bodies were completely covered by blankets.”

Kasra Ibrahimi said he saw the van on the sidewalk and heard people yelling and screaming as it plowed ahead.

“It was like a movie scene. It hit people, and they were like flying in the air,” he said. “After like two minutes, five minutes, the ambulance and police came, and they started emergency procedures … I saw they were dead.”

Police did not provide details of the suspect’s arrest but videos posted on social media showed a young man standing by the open door of a white Ryder rental van holding a dark object in his hand and pointing it at an armed police officer just metres away.

“Shoot me,” the man is heard saying on the video, as the officer repeatedly asks him to get down. “I have a gun in my pocket,” the man says.

Other videos show the man on the ground, being handcuffed. The unidentified police officer was praised online for the way he handled the situation.

“A complete display of experience, composure, and professionalism; a true Canadian hero,” read one Tweet about the officer.

Saunders also praised the officer, saying he “did a fantastic job,” and noted that there was nothing to indicate the suspect had a gun at the time.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, who was in Toronto on Monday attending a meeting of the G7 foreign ministers and security officials, said the incident did not appear to present a national threat.

“The events that happened on the street behind us are horrendous but they do not appear to be connected in any way to national security, based on the information available at this time,” he told an evening news conference near the site of the incident.

“Grateful for the brave and professional response of @TorontoPolice and other first responders to the horrific attack at Yonge and Finch,” he tweeted earlier in the day. “Canadians are appalled at what happened. The victims and their families have our deepest condolences.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said the city was setting up a hotline to offer support to those affected and another one for witnesses who could help with the police investigation.

“This is a time when this community should come together,” he said. “These are not the kinds of things that we expect to happen in this city. We hope they don’t happen anywhere in the world, but we especially don’t expect them to happen in Toronto.”

Toronto Paramedic Services said the injured were transported to various hospitals in the city, including Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, which reported that two of the 10 patients transported to their emergency rooms were pronounced dead on arrival. The hospital said five patients remained in critical condition and three were in serious condition.

A Sunnybrook official said hospital officials were still identifying the victims and contacting their families.

Near the crash scene, dozens of people stood in silence Monday afternoon as a police helicopter hovered overhead. A section of Yonge Street will remain closed for several days as officers conduct what they expect to be a long and complex investigation, police said.

Dainis Cevers said he was driving to pick up a relative at a nearby church when the alleged perpetrator cut in front of him, hit a pedestrian and accelerated.

“The guy flew up all the way to the end of that sidewalk…about five or six metres,” Cevers said.

Restaurant manager Noorani Barsat said he raced outside after hearing a commotion to find a badly injured man lying nearby.

“I just ran over there, brought water and a towel to that injured man, but he was unconscious,” Barsat said, adding first responders took about 20 minutes to reach the scene.

The head of the Toronto Police Association said they were bringing in counsellors to assist officers who responded to the incident.

“Nobody’s seen anything like this. I’ve been in policing for 30 years we’ve never seen this and again, unfortunately, this is the new world order and we’re very concerned about it,” Mike McCormack said.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said all levels of government and law enforcement were working together to deal with the situation.

“I think we are all unsettled and very disturbed by a situation like this. I think it’s impossible not to be,” she said. “It’s frightening and we have to rely on the people who are trained, who can make sure that information is available as it needs to be and that the precautionary measures are taken here in the city and around the province.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several provincial politicians also offered sympathies to those affected by the incident and their loved ones.

By evening, people had started placing signs and flowers near the scene of the crash.

The city’s hockey team held a moment of silence Monday night before their playoff game in honour of those affected by the deadly incident.

The starting lineups of the Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins stood on their blue lines while the Air Canada Centre crowd stood in silence as a photo of Toronto’s skyline flashed on the scoreboard. The American and Canadian anthems were then sung, with singer Martina Ortiz-Luis dropping her microphone and letting the crowd take over the lyrics of O Canada during the second verse.

— With files from Nicole Thompson, Maija Kappler, Tara Deschamps and Salmaan Farooqui

Michelle McQuigge and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

—-

UPDATE: 2:45 p.m.

Toronto police say nine people are dead and 16 are injured after a van mounted a sidewalk in north Toronto, hitting pedestrians.

Police say the driver of the van has been arrested.

Deputy Chief Peter Yuen says the police force has mobilized “all available resources” as they investigate the incident.

Police are establishing two hotlines — one for victims and their families, and the other for witnesses to call in information related to the incident.

He says the matter is going to be a long investigation with multiple witnesses.

The incident took place at the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue around 1:30 p.m. The area has been closed to traffic, and transit services in the vicinity have been suspended.

—-

ORGINAL: 11 a.m.

At least seven people were injured and one man is in custody after a van mounted a sidewalk in north Toronto and crashed through a crowd of pedestrians, police said Monday.

Investigators did not immediately confirm fatalities but eyewitnesses said bodies covered by blankets could be seen in the area. The incident took place around 1:30 p.m. near the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue East.

Sunnybrook Hospital issued a statement saying seven people have been transported to its emergency room from the intersection of Yonge Street and Finch Avenue East where the incident took place. The hospital did not provide any details on the victims or the nature of their injuries.

Toronto Police Const. Caroline de Kloet was similarly tight-lipped about the arrested man’s identity or any charges that might be pending.

“We don’t know the cause or the reason for the collision, but we can confirm that the van has been located and the driver is in custody,” de Kloet said in an interview.

The federal public safety minister said he had no present information to lead him to believe that the national terrorism threat level should be raised.

“There is no information available to me at the present time that would indicate a change in the risk level,” Ralph Goodale said when asked about the terrorism threat level.

“I cannot provide details at this stage, but I do want to extend thoughts and prayers to those who have suffered as a result of what has happened.”

Eye-witnesses to the incident describe a scene of devastation with numerous pedestrian injuries.

Phil Zullo was driving north on Yonge Street early Monday afternoon when he said he observed police chasing a vehicle.

Moments later he said he realized why.

“I must have seen about five, six people being resuscitated by bystanders and by ambulance drivers,” Zullo said. “It was awful. Brutal. Just people everywhere. People — shoes and shirts and ball caps on the floor.”

Photos from the scene show paramedics treating several people on a blood-stained sidewalk.

Dainis Cevers said he was driving to pick up a relative to a nearby church when the alleged perpetrator cut in front of him, hit a pedestrian and accelerated.

“The guy flew up all the way to the end of that sidewalk … about five or six meters,” Cevers said.

Restaurant manager Noorani Barsat said he raced outside after hearing chaos outside only to find a badly injured man lying nearby.

“I just ran over there, brought water and a towel to that injured man, but he was unconscious,” Barsat said, adding first responders took about 20 minutes to reach the scene.

Tareq Amir was on his way to the bank when he came upon the aftermath of the crash, which he said destroyed a bus sheltered and left at least three people injured within his view.

“Nobody knows what’s going on here,” he said. ” … . But I’m really sorry for the people that get injured and I hope nobody sees anymore here in this city.”

Toronto Paramedic Services spokeswoman Kim McKinnon said personnel are on the scene treating an unknown number of injuries, but declined to provide further detail.

Toronto’s district fire chief said firefighters responding to the incident helped treat and triage patients at several locations.

“I believe patients were found at three different areas,” Stephan Powell said.

Dozens of people stood in silence close to the crash scene as a police helicopter hovered overhead. Streets in the area were closed as dozens of police cruisers converged on the area.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said he planned to join those on scene as he extended city support to the investigation of an incident he described as “very tragic.”

“My thoughts are with those affected by this incident and the frontline responders who are working to help those injured,” he said in a statement.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she has been in touch with city security officials and will implement any measures tey recommend.

Political reaction began pouring in almost immediately, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Our hearts go out to everyone affected,” Trudeau said in Ottawa. “We are going to have more to learn and more to say in the coming hours.”

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said all levels of government and law enforcement are working together on what she called a “frightening and tragic situation.”

She would not comment on the scope or circumstances of the incident, saying the investigation continues.

“I think we are all unsettled and very distrubed by a situation like this. I think it’s impossible not to be. It’s frightening and we have to rely on the people who are trained, who can make sure that information is available as it needs to be and that the precautionary measures are taken here in the city and around the province,” she said.

Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford and New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath also offered sympathies.

The Canadian Press

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(Canadian Press)

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