TORONTO — Shock gave way to grief in Toronto on Tuesday as officials and residents alike struggled to come to terms with a deadly rampage that killed 10 people and injured 15 others.
Candles and flowers piled up along the stretch of Yonge Street where a 25-year-old man allegedly drove a rented van down sidewalks Monday afternoon, striking pedestrians in his path.
Alek Minassian, 25, of Richmond Hill, Ont., has since been charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
Before observing a moment of silence and closing down business for the day as an act of mourning, city councillors identified one of the victims as Anne Marie D’Amico.
Well-wishers wept as they struggled to make sense of the violence that shattered the peace of a usually bustling neighbourhood that regulars describe as a safe haven.
“You feel for this community considering that you live here, you shop here, you laugh with the people here, you go out here,” said neighbourhood resident Don-Antonio Andrew. “It’s a very traumatic time for this area and for your neighbourhood.”
Andrew, who said one pedestrian got hit directly in front of his apartment building, came to lay flowers at the scene in a show of solidarity with the neighbourhood he described as one of the best he’s lived in since he moved to Canada.
Claire Hurley, who was making her own floral contribution to the memorial, said the fatal attack was difficult to reconcile with the safe community she’s come to know.
“This always seems like a really safe neighbourhood, so it was a big shock,” she said while wiping back tears. “Everyone was out enjoying the sunshine, and enjoying life. I guess you just have to… enjoy every day.”
The makeshift memorial was set up on the east side of Yonge Street, just below Finch Avenue, where the deadly incident took place. Police officers still blanketed the scene on Tuesday as they continued to investigate the attack.
Police have not yet released the names and ages of the victims, but Toronto Coun. Cesar Palacio revealed D’Amico’s identity at an early-morning session at city hall, adding that he reached out to her father to express condolences.
“When I spoke to Rocco … early this morning, it was clear that part of his life is gone,” Palacio said. “As he noted, he’s living the worst nightmare ever of his life.”
The president of Invesco Canada, which is near where the crash took place, issued a statement saying one of his employees had died. Peter Intraligi says the company’s “thoughts and prayers” were with “all those impacted by this tragic event.”
Across the city, Minassian made a brief court appearance in a packed court room to learn the charges filed against him. Clad in a white jumpsuit, he said little other than his name before charges were announced. His next court appearance is currently slated for May 10.
Minassian was arrested after a brief sidewalk standoff with a lone police officer not far from the incident site. The officer is being widely hailed as a hero for taking Minassian into custody without firing a single shot.
“It’s one shining moment in an absolutely game-changing, abysmal, horrific day in the city of Toronto,” Toronto Police Union President Mike McCormack said. “The one…positive to take away from that day was his (officer’s) behaviour.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday morning that while the investigation is still underway, there is no evidence to suggest that there was a “national security element” to the attack. Calling it a “senseless attack and a horrific tragedy,” Trudeau called for a show of support for the people affected as well as a city in mourning.
“The entire community of Toronto has shown strength and determination in the face of this tragedy,” Trudeau said outside the House of Commons. “All Canadians stand united with Toronto today.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory echoed that call and said the city will recover from Monday’s attack.
“Toronto was a great city yesterday, it is a great city today and it will be a great city tomorrow,” he said. “The people who call this city home are shaken right now but we are not broken and we will not be broken.”
At the Ontario legislature, members of all three provincial parties held a moment of silence and expressed their grief and support for the first responders who toiled at the scene.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said that while legislators were all reeling from Monday’s incident, they felt it was important to carry on with the democratic process.
“We have to ensure that this kind of senseless act doesn’t define us,” Wynne said. “We owe it to the people of the province to reassure them that this is a safe place that we live in, because it is.”
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his condolences to his country’s northern neighbour Tuesday morning.
“I also want to express our deepest sympathies to the Canadian people following the horrendous tragedy in Toronto that claimed so many innocent lives,” Trump said at a White House ceremony. “Our hearts are with the grieving families in Canada.”
Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders said Monday it was too early to suggest a motive for the deadly incident. Police are expected to provide further updates on the situation at a 3 p.m. news conference.
Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, which on Monday night said it was treating five patients in critical condition and three in serious condition, said the victims’ status was unchanged early Tuesday.
A Muslim-Canadian non-profit group called DawaNet, which helped raise more than $800,000 for the victims of last year’s mosque shooting in Quebec, has launched a GoFundMe page for the victims of the Toronto incident, which had raised more than $50,000 by early Tuesday.
The stretch of Yonge Street where the attack took place remains closed to traffic and was expected to stay blocked off for several days as police continue what is likely to be a lengthy investigation.
— With files from Maija Kappler and Liam Casey
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press