Zoom trial dominated by minute-by-minute details of attack, arrest interview
Alek Minassian was holding his hands at the nine and three o’clock positions, staring straight ahead, when he hit Robert Anderson with such force that Anderson was literally knocked out of his socks. When he ran over Beverly Smith, the impact was so strong the 81-year-old was left with her internal organs exposed and she needed her legs amputated.
The experiences of two survivors of Canada’s deadliest vehicle attack were read into evidence yesterday, along with those of Minassian’s other victims, by Crown attorney Joseph Callaghan on the first day of Minassian’s judge-only trial before Justice Anne Molloy of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Minassian appeared over Zoom dressed in a dark jacket and grey button-up shirt to answer to 16 counts of murder and 10 counts of attempted murder.
“I am entering a plea of not criminally responsible,” Minassian told the court in response to the charges, following the advice of his defence counsel, Boris Bytensky.
Minassian is alleged to be motivated by his “incel” views. Incels, or involuntary celibates, was started in 1997 by a Toronto woman as a support group for sexless men and women but has morphed into a male supremacist ideology that dehumanizes women on the basis they owe men sex.
The trial, already rescheduled twice due to the pandemic, was delayed from its anticipated 10 a.m. start by technical tests, despite a prior dry run. It took nearly an hour before the court was formally called to session.
Details of attack laid out in facts agreed on by Crown and defence
After Minassian entered his plea, Callaghan read the statement of facts agreed upon by himself and the defence. The statement took nearly two hours and hundreds of slides to outline a rampage that lasted less than 10 minutes and covered two-and-a-half kilometres, nearly half of that on sidewalks.
“He accelerated over top of the victims, never slowing,” Callaghan said, detailing the first group of victims at a Korean barbecue. “He drove in one swift move and did not brake when he hit the pedestrians… others on the sidewalk began screaming and running.”
There were a few glimmers of humanity in the play-by-play, such as the drivers who held their horns down to warn pedestrians and the Good Samaritan who chased the van, trying to reach into the driver’s-side window to disable it.
Otherwise, the court heard and saw one grisly detail after another: screenshots of Minassian’s pre-attack Facebook post that the “incel rebellion” had begun and they would “overthrow all the Chads and Stacys”; photos of orange sheets covering the bodies of 45-year-old Chul Min (Eddie) Kang and 83-year-old Geraldine Brady; grainy videos of pedestrians scrambling to avoid the van; the way that the van was being driven so hard it shook storefront windows as it passed and shed its bumper at an intersection; dashcam footage of Minassian trying to commit suicide-by-cop by shouting, “I have a gun. Kill me now! Kill me now! Shoot me!” at arresting officer Const. Ken Lam and pulling an object — a wallet — from his pocket.
Callaghan wrapped up the statement of facts with photos of the van after it was impounded. Its front end was smashed in and its windshield was cracked and stained with what Callaghan described as “dried liquid.”
It was that liquid, a drink carried by Andrea Bradden that splashed across the windshield when Minassian struck and killed her, that put an end to his spree.
‘I feel like I accomplished my mission’: four-hour police interview wraps up first day
“The only reason I stopped my attack was because someone’s drink got splashed on my windshield and I was worried that I would crash the van,” Minassian told Det. Rob Thomas in his post-arrest interview. “I decided, ‘OK, now I wanted to do more,’ but I’ve kind of been foiled by a lack of visibility.”
The interview, over four hours long, dominated the afternoon portion of the trial as the Crown played it nearly in full, skipping only the portions where Minassian and Thomas were both out of the room.
In the video, Minassian talks about the month-long planning stage of his attack and talks about converting people from “life status” to “death status” to advance his goals.
“Ten people died here today,” Thomas asks Minassian in the interview. “How do you feel about that?”
“I feel like I accomplished my mission,” Minassian replies.
The court will not be in session today in recognition of Remembrance Day.
The trial resumes tomorrow.