The Canadian public is reeling after a tragic hate crime took place over the weekend, leaving virtually an entire family dead.
The Associated Press has reported that on June 6, “a driver plowed a pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack that targeted the victims because they were Muslims.”
According to Canadian officials, a large black pickup truck raced over a curb on Sunday night in the Ontario city of London and struck an entire family that was crossing in an intersection. Following the attack, the presumed suspect, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby mall.
The AP has reported on the extended family’s statement, “identifying the dead as Salman Afzal, 46; his wife Madiha, 44; their daughter Yumna, 15; and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld. A hospitalized [9-year-old] boy was identified as Fayez.”
With much of the country in shock over the terrible crime, London’s mayor Ed Holder said, “this was an act of mass murder [perpetrated] against Muslims. It was rooted in unspeakable hatred. In one act of murder, some individual has wiped out three generations of a family. It’s horrific.”
Police say Veltman is currently in custody facing four counts of first-degree murder. He apparently did not know the victims.
“Detective Supt. Paul Waight said police did not know at this point if the suspect was a member of any specific hate group,” the AP reported. “London police are working with federal police and prosecutors to see about potential terrorism charges. [Waight] declined to detail evidence pointing to a possible hate crime but said the attack was planned.”
Police Chief Stephen Williams added that “we believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith.”
“The three generations among the dead were a grandmother, father, mother and teenage daughter. The family had immigrated from Pakistan 14 years ago and were dedicated, decent and generous members of the London Muslim Mosque,” Zahid Khan, a family friend, told news reporters after the incident. “They were just out for their walk that they would go out for every day.”
According to a GoFundMe page set up following the attack, the father was a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast, and his wife was working on a Ph.D. in civil engineering at Western University in London. Their daughter was finishing ninth grade at Oakridge Secondary School, and the grandmother was a “pillar of the family” who cherished their daily walks.
In a tweet, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote: “To the Muslim community in London and to Muslims across the country, know that we stand with you. Islamophobia has no place in any of our communities. This hate is insidious and despicable — and it must stop.”