London Police have identified four victims, all of the same family, that were struck and killed in a hit-and-run on Sunday in what investigators believe was a targeted attack fueled by hate against the Islamic faith.
Four family members – including a 74-year-old woman, 44-year-old woman, 46-year-old man, and a 15-year-old girl – were killed at a red light around 8:30 p.m. when a large, black truck came up behind the family and struck them at a high speed.
A 9-year-old, the sole survivor and fifth family member, remains in hospital with serious injuries.
Superintendent Paul Waight said Monday it’s believed the suspect intended to harm the family in what investigators are calling a “premeditated attack, motivated by hate.”
“Family members of the victims ask that the names of the victims not be released at this time,” said Waight.
“It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim… As a result of the investigation Nathaniel Veltman, 20 years of age of London, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.”
The London Police Service wrote in a release that the incident occurred at the intersection of Hyde Park and South Carriage roads.
Police Chief Steve Williams said one adult female who was struck died at the scene, while an adult male, adult female, and two children were rushed to hospital by paramedics.
The two adults and one teenaged child later succumbed to their injuries.
Police arrested Veltman a short time later in the parking lot of a mall seven kilometres away near Oxford Street West and Cherryhill Boulevard. They say he was wearing a body-armour-type vest at the time he was apprehended.
Police say there was no known prior relationship between the suspect and the victims and it’s believed Veltman acted alone.
Premier Doug Ford condemned the attack on social media, saying “Hate and Islamaphobia have NO place in Ontario.”
“Justice must be served for the horrific act of hatred that took place in London, Ontario yesterday. My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends during this difficult time. These heinous acts of violence must stop.”
Hate and Islamophobia have NO place in Ontario. Justice must be served for the horrific act of hatred that took place in London, Ontario yesterday.
My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends during this difficult time. These heinous acts of violence must stop.
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) June 7, 2021
The attack was the worst against Canadian Muslims since 27-year-old Alexandre Bissonnette gunned down six members of a Quebec City mosque in 2017.
London Mayor Ed Holder said, “This was an act of mass murder perpetrated against Muslims, against Londoners, and rooted in unspeakable hatred.”
In Mississauga, Mayor Bonnie Crombie took to Twitter to express her condolences saying she’s “Devastated by the act of terror that took place against the Muslim community in London, Ontario.”
“Islamophobia and hate have no place in this country. My heart breaks for the family, friends and the entire community. I stand in solidarity with Muslim Canadians affected by this tragedy.”
Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca tweeted his “heart breaks for the victims, and for all Muslims having to witness yet another deadly Islamophobic attack.”
“There’s no place for hatred and Islamophobia in Ontario. Justice must be served for this hate crime.”
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with further information is being asked to contact police.
‘I can’t get the sound of the screams out of my head,’ fatal crash witness says
Holder referred to the killing of four Muslim pedestrians as an “act of mass murder.”
His comments come after police said the motorist that killed the four family members did so deliberately.
“Words fail on a day as dark as this but still, words matter,” said Holder.
“I grieve for the family, three generations of them are now deceased. I pray for their loved ones. I pray for the recovery of the child that still remains in hospital.”
Meanwhile, a woman who witnessed the crash says she can’t stop thinking about the victims.
Paige Martin says she was stopped at a red light yesterday evening when a large, black truck came up behind her and flew past at high speed.
A few minutes later, she came upon a gruesome scene at an intersection near her home.
Martin said her car shook from the force of the passing truck.
“I was shaken up, thinking it was an erratic driver,” she said.
A few minutes later she came upon a gruesome scene at an intersection near her home.
First responders in full sprint, a police officer performing chest compressions on one person and three others down on the ground.
Martin said there were a few dozen people 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.
She went home and from her apartment, she could see the scene. Around midnight she watched an official drape a sheet over a body.
Blue evidence markers on the ground dotted the intersection and officers were performing line searches for several hundred metres in the field next to the sidewalk.
With files from The Canadian Press