Toronto’s van killing case goes to trial

TORONTO – On a beautiful spring day, Kathy Riddell was making her way to the public library when she was slammed by a van coming down the sidewalk.

His body flew into the air, and crashed onto a bus shelter, with glass “pouring over it,” a prosecutor explained at the opening of the trial Toronto’s biggest mass murder, In which 10 people were killed, 16 injured and a city desperate.

Ms. Riddell, who is mostly blind, suffered more than 20 injuries in the 2018 attack, including major brain trauma that completely erased the incident from her memory.

It was only on the first day of court, five months after that Last physiotherapy session, That she finally understood what had happened.

The retired financial analyst said, “I am shocked now. 70 people said,” I was shocked to hear what people were doing – people dragged under the vehicle and threw it against the walls. “

When the criminal trial of the man who removed the van began earlier this month, many hoped it would eventually set off something for the attack, which shocked a country where mass murders are relatively rare. At least some people were expected to have an understanding of how many strangers Ellis Minassian, who graduated from college, decided to kill strangers along the city’s main thoroughfare before attempting to “commit suicide by police” Was. Pretending that he was armed on a police officer and yelling at him to shoot him.

The lawsuit is dominated by news, as each day in court presents a complete picture of the defendant’s life and mental state.

However, it is happening on the zoom due to the coronovirus epidemic, and therefore none of the victims or their survivors can come face to face with the killer. And the defendant, now 28, has pleaded not to be criminally responsible – what was once known as a “defense of insanity”. If proven, he will be sent to a psychiatric institution for treatment instead of jail.

Defense lawyers have made the rare argument that he was unable to understand that the murders were wrong from a moral standpoint because he has autism spectrum disorder, a condition not usually associated with violent attacks.

“I can’t try to stop someone from giving me responsibility in this way,” said Jessie James, a community organizer who worked with the Weigels and The procession In the aftermath of the attack. “It is going to spread our feelings of sadness and sorrow and fear to whole new levels, deepening it in some ways.”

Tragedy was the first time heard in Toronto The word “incel” Or “involuntary celibate”, a self-claimed label for men who blame women for refusing sex. Before driving on the sidewalk, the van driver posted a tribute to the deceased leader of the Missonist movement, Elliot Roeder, on his Facebook account, and announced, “The Inkel Rebellion has begun!”

The attack occurred in Toronto’s dense northern pocket, which has changed from a predominantly white suburb in recent decades to a canyon of toned condominiums filled with new migrants.

More than $ 2.6 million was donated to a fund for victims and their families, ranging from two Korean students to a Jordan senior to their grandchildren. There were eight women.

More than two years later, another emergency is consumed in the city, with several storefronts and small Korean restaurants closing extensive pavements due to the increasing number of coronoviruses. There are few physical reminders of the attack, besides two temporary plaques commemorating the victims along 1.5 miles Fatal route.

The trial opened with new graphic details accepted as fact by the defendant, who faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 attempted murder: he drove the van to 29 mph Was driving, knocking the victims to a distance of 26 feet. In the air. One was hit so hard, his socks fell off. The bodies of others were wrapped around his windshield and pulled under the vehicle – up to 500 feet.

The victims who survived suffered traumatic injuries – spinal fractures, bleeding brains, broken ribs and hips, in a case, Leg amputation.

In an interview with a police detective, hours after the arrest and shown in court, the defendant said he hated women since “attempting to socialize with some girls” at a Halloween party five years ago. , And “They laughed at me and held the arms of ugly people.”

Later, he said, he had become radicalized on online incel chat groups. He had made a plan a month before the Toronto attack, thinking that “I will inspire the common people of the future to join my uplift.”

He did not display emotion at any point during the four-hour interview. He explicitly talked about using the 10-foot-van “as a weapon” and killing people who “don’t survive as a result.” Near the end he said, “I feel like I completed my mission.”

At the heart of the lawsuit is autism spectrum disorder, which Mr. Minassian discovered at age 5. At a court hearing, his father, Vahe, described how he could be hyper-focused in mathematics on the things he was interested in, but found social interaction, especially with women, difficult.

He called his son “gentle” and “happy” with a history of violence.

Since the day of the attack, Wah Minassian told the crying court, he and his wife had been asking themselves “what could be possible signs that we had possibly missed?” He said, “To date, we have no answer.”

Criminally responsible findings are not uncommon in Canada; The vast majority are related to episodes of mental spectrum disorder or mood disorders. Mental disorder law experts are watching the trial closely and consider the defense to be “not uncommon, if not unprecedented”, said Anita Sajagetty, a criminal lawyer in Toronto.

“Autism is not usually associated with the inability to know right from wrong,” she said. “Everyone thinks it’s a tough fight.”

Representing organizations Canadian suffering from autism Termed the legal argument as dangerous and false.

Ms. Riddell said she would be held very little responsible for explaining Mr. Minassian’s position. Since the trial began, she arrived in the courtyard with her walker to watch the proceedings on a screen, so that she would not be alone.

A former paralympian who won two silver medals for cross-country skiing at the 1986 World Handicapped Ski Championships, Ms. Riddell spent two months in hospital following the attack, followed by physical therapy and counseling for two years.

She mr. Disappointed at not having a chance to meet Minassian face to face. “I want to see him as a real person,” she said. “I want him to understand all of us as real people with real lives and we are extremely suffering.”

However, others have found unexpected comfort from the virtual aspect of the test.

Tiffany Jeffkins was having lunch on the grass of the public intersection across the street from her condominium building, when the van stopped past. A first aid instructor, Ms. Jeffkins raced for the three victims, performed CPR and coaching other spectators to follow suit.

During the first day of the trial, sitting on his comfortable couch, with his phone to call friends nearby for support, he learned that one of those victims had survived.

“I grab a pen and write my name down,” said Ms. Jeffkins, who is now working on a postdoctoral thesis on the experience of nonprofit organizations assisting in cardiac arrest emergencies.

“That was really great,” he said. “Perhaps our efforts had positive results for these people.”

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