Family of man accused of Toronto van attack devastated and grieving for victims

Police have said eight women and two men died after Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., allegedly drove a rental van down a busy sidewalk on April 23.

The family of the man accused in the deadly van attack that shocked Toronto last month is grieving for the victims but stands by the accused, the man’s lawyer said Thursday as three new charges were laid against his client.

Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., now faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in the April 23 incident.

Related: Three new attempted murder charges for man accused in Toronto van attack

Eight women and two men died after a rental van mounted a sidewalk along a busy street in north Toronto and ran down pedestrians in its path. Authorities initially said 13 people were injured that day but further investigation revealed three others were also hurt.

Following a brief hearing where three new attempted murder charges were laid against Minassian, his lawyer said outside court that his client’s family was devastated.

“They appreciate the devastation on many other families as well,” Boris Bytensky said. “They’re going to allow everyone to grieve. They send their condolences and really their prayers for everyone affected by this.

“They stand behind their son and are very respectful of the court process,” Bytensky said, adding that he didn’t want to talk about how his client was doing.

“This isn’t a time to discuss Mr. Minassian, this is still a grieving period for the city,” he said. “There are many families that are grieving for those lives lost and those injured.”

Minassian appeared in court by video from jail, standing straight with his arms at his side, and didn’t say a word. Several people in court cried during the brief hearing, which concluded with the case being put over to Sept. 14.

Bytensky said the adjournment in the case is a little longer than usual because the Crown has a lot of disclosure to go through before handing it over to the defence. He added that he had no intention of litigating the case through the media.

Insp. Bryan Bott, the head of Toronto’s homicide squad, said shortly after the attack that police hadn’t identified a motive, but that the evidence they had didn’t meet the threshold for terrorism charges.

Bytensky said there’s no evidence thus far that suggests the attack was an act of terrorism.

“There’s a lot of people who were terrified,” he said. “This was obviously a very terrifying incident, but there’s no terrorism as we usually use that term involved in this case.”

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.

Related: Toronto van attack accused was briefly in Canadian Armed Forces

Eight people injured in the attack remain either in hospital or a rehabilitative facility, Bott said Thursday.

Saron Gebressellassi, a lawyer helping out many of those injured, was at Minassian’s court appearance.

“The families want to know what’s going on here,” Gebressellassi said. “But their priorities are elsewhere, so I’m going to let them know.”

She went to Sunnbyrook Hospital on the day of the attack to help the victims, and said questions from them and their families go far beyond medical concerns.

“I would be getting so many questions from people about how to pay the mortgage, how do we pay the rent,” she said. ”That’s what people don’t see — come the first of the month, the rent is due.”

Gebressellassi said she’s gotten close to Amaresh Tesfamariam, an Eritrean-Canadian who has no immediate family in Toronto but whose family is travelling in and out of the United States to be by her bedside.

“She’s still in the ICU,” Gebressellassi said. “The family is praying for the best. It’s very, very serious.”

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Penticton artist launches YouTube painting show

Abstract painter Jenny Long has started a YouTube channel to teach others painting techniques

Annual Downtown Penticton block party

Ellis on the Rise – the annual block party includes activities for all ages, live music and more

Penticton city staff suggest 13 locations for election signs

A number of the locations eschew previous rules that barred signs on city-owned facilities

Talking music at Penticton’s Dream Café

Listen Up! to Holger Petersen

B.C. rep returns to South Okanagan to tour floods

Jennifer Rice, parliamentary secretary for emergency preparedness, was in the Penticton area Sunday

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

Major traffic delays in West Kelowna

For those driving into Kelowna on Highway 97 expect significant delays

Canada’s G7 goal on development: luring private capital to poor nations

G7 finance and international development ministers convene in British Columbia next week

Congressional leaders to review information on Russia probe

Trump said he will “demand” that the Justice Department open an investigation into whether the FBI infiltrated his presidential campaign

Canadians stranded in Cuba after plane crash returning home

Montreal-based travel agency says hundreds of Canadians who were stuck in Cuba since a plane crash last week are returning home

As summit looms, North Korean media return to angry tone

North Korean media are stepping up their rhetorical attacks on South Korea and joint military exercises with the United States

Maple Leafs lose another executive after parting ways with assistant GM

The Toronto Maple Leafs say club and assistant general manager Mark Hunter have mutually agreed to part ways.

Rachel Notley to skip premiers conference to focus on pipeline deal

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project until it receives assurances

Most Read