A man driving a pickup truck jumped over a curb in the Canadian province of Ontario and crashed into a Muslim family, killing four members and seriously injuring another, according to police as a targeted crime against Islamic hatred.
A 20-year-old man wearing a “bulletproof vest” vest fled the scene of the massacre on Sunday night, but was arrested at a mall about four miles from a crossroads in London, Ontario, Detective Supervisor Paul White said Monday.
Nathaniel Weltman of London faces four counts of first-degree murder. Police said they did not know the victims.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, deliberate act motivated by hatred. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they are Muslims,”
He said investigators had not established whether the suspect was a member of any particular hate group – and added that police were working with federal authorities to look for potential terrorism charges.
CANADA SITE OF FORMER MARINE SCHOOL DISCOVERS MASS GRAVE WITH COVERED MORE THAN 200 CHILDREN
The family issued a statement identifying the victims as Salman Afzal, 46, his wife Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name is unknown.
The hospitalized boy was identified as Fayes.
“Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzal family knows the exemplary family, which included Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis,” the statement said.
“They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled. Their children were the best students in their school and were strongly connected to their spiritual identity,” he added.
Salman was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast, and Madiha worked as a doctor of civil engineering at Western University, according to an online fundraising account. Their daughter was in ninth grade, and the grandmother was a “pillar” of the family, it is said.
The family said the public should oppose hatred and Islamophobia.
USA, CANADA, MEXICO UNSUFFICIENT TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS EXTENDED UNTIL JUNE 21
“This young man who committed this act of terror was influenced by a group he was associated with, and the rest of the community must take a firm stand against it, from the highest levels in our government to every member of the community. “, They said in a statement.
The five family members were walking together on the sidewalk around 8:40 p.m. On Sunday, when the black vehicle “climbed the curb and hit them” while waiting to cross the intersection, police said.
Mayor Ed Holder called the incident “an act of mass murder continued against Muslims. It is rooted in inexpressible hatred.”
Police Chief Stephen Williams also said that “there is no tolerance in this community that is motivated by hatred directed at others with violence.”
Paige Martin, a close resident who witnessed the aftermath of the deadly crash, said she was stopped at a red light when a large pickup truck roared past her. She said her car was shaken by the force.
“I was shocked to think he was a fickle driver,” Martin said, adding that she soon came across the scary, chaotic scene at the intersection.
Soon first assistants arrived, a police officer compressed one person’s chest and three other people were lying on the ground.
Several drivers also got out of their cars to help.
“I can’t get the scream out of my head,” Martin said. “My heart is just so broken for them.”
Family friend Zahid Khan said the victims immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago and were dedicated, honest and generous members of London’s Muslim mosque.
“They were just going for a walk that they would go out for every day,” Khan said through tears near the place. “I just wanted to see.”
Kazi Khalil said he saw the family living nearby on Thursday when they were out for a walk.
“It completely destroyed me from within. I can’t accept that they weren’t here anymore,” Khalil said.
Holder said the flags would be lowered in three days in the city, which he said has 30,000 to 40,000 Muslims among more than 400,000 residents.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted: “For the Muslim community in London and for Muslims across the country, know that we are with you.
“Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hatred is insidious and contemptuous – and it must stop,” he added.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement that it was “out of horror and demands justice” for the victims, who were simply “walking” on a warm spring evening.
“This is a terrorist attack on Canadian soil and should be treated as such,” Council President Mustafa Farouk told Radio Canada.
The Muslim Association of Canada also called on the authorities to “pursue this horrific attack as an act of hatred and terrorism.”
“Hatred and Islamophobia have no place in Ontario,” Ontario Prime Minister Doug Ford said in a tweet. “These heinous acts of violence must stop.”
Click here to get the FOX NEWS app
The attack brought back painful memories of the mass shooting of a mosque in the city of Quebec in January 2017, when a 27-year-old white supreme authority opened fire on worshipers, killing six men and seriously injuring five.
At the time, before the shooting of a mosque in New Zealand in March 2019, it was the heaviest attack on Muslims in the West.
Rifleman Alexander Bisonet was sentenced to 40 years in prison, but this was reduced on appeal and now the Supreme Court is reviewing his sentence.
On April 23, 2018, a 28-year-old man plowed a rented van into pedestrians, killing 10 people.
Prior to the attack, Alec Minasian posted on Facebook a link to an online community of “involuntary celibacy” whose sexual frustrations led them to adopt a misogynistic ideology.
In March, Minasian was found guilty of killing 10 and trying to kill 16 others. He will be convicted in January 2022.
This report originally appeared in the New York Post.