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

West Kelowna RCMP commander recognized with Order of Merit

Sgt. Duncan Dixon’s career spans an impressive 28 years with the RCMP

Okanagan school districts receive thousands for trades programs

The money is part of $1.37 million given to fifty-one school districts for trades programs

Former Kelowna-based B.C. Dragoons leader pleads guilty to possession of child porn

Sean David Parker pleaded guilty to possession of child porn on Monday

Rutland Residents Association files complaint with provincial obudsmen over low-barrier housing

Complaint claims low-barrier housing has had a negative impact on their neighbourhood.

Two UBC professors aim to bridge cultural divide through humanities

Humanities hubs have been created on both the Vancouver and Okanagan UBC campuses

Beauty boutique committed to cleaner, greener industry

The Green Vanity accepts empty product containers for recycling

B.C. man gets 23 years for murder of Belgian tourist near Boston Bar

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Christelle Sakkalis

Thieves smash way into Vernon business

Incident at Simply Delicious happened at 4:30 a.m. and was caught on video

Pot shop opens near Princeton on band land

A medical and recreational cannabis shop opened earlier this month near Princeton.… Continue reading

Bidders down, costs up on Highway 1, B.C. independent contractors say

Rally protests NDP government’s union-only public construction

Members of little people community applaud change to drop ‘midget’ term

‘It’s not about sensitivity,’ says Allan Redford, the president of the Little People of Canada

Two-month water advisory issued for some North Okanagan customers

Not a boil water notice, just an advisory as permanent fix in sight

Little progress in preventing sudden infant deaths since last report: BC Coroner

Coroners panel studied 141 sleep-related sudden infant deaths between 2013 and 2018

Most Read