Accused Toronto van driver once praised Santa Barbara mass killer

Alek Minassian

Alek Minassian, the man accused of steering a white rental van down a packed Toronto street killing 10 people and leaving 15 others injured, apparently praised the killer in a 2014 attack near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Just before Monday’s deadly attack, Minassian wrote on his Facebook page: “All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

Here’s what we know about Minassian:

Who is he?

– Minassian, 25, is from Richmond Hill, Ontario, Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

— On Tuesday, he was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. His bail hearing is set for May 10.

– He allegedly drove for nearly a mile early Monday afternoon along Yonge Street, north of midtown Toronto, sometimes veering onto the sidewalk as he plowed a path of destruction, police said.

– In high school, “he was always smiling. It wasn’t his intention; it was out of his control.” That’s how a neighbor who once attended Japanese class at Thornlea Secondary School in Ontario with Minassian described him.

He was odd, kept to himself and didn’t socialize with other students, the neighbor said.

– He was unknown to Toronto authorities before the van incident, Saunders said, noting: “There’s nothing we have … on him right now.”

But a US law enforcement official with knowledge of the matter said Minassian had been known to authorities.

– Referring to the van rampage, his “actions definitely look deliberate,” Saunders said.

What about his motive?

– His motive is not yet clear.

– So far, he is not being called a terrorist. “There would appear to be no national security connection,” Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale said.

– Just before the van plowed down pedestrians, it appears Minassian lauded an American mass killer on his Facebook account, CNN law enforcement analyst Josh Campbell said.

“All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” reads the message on the account investigators believe belongs to Minassian, Campbell said.

Rodger killed six people and injured 14 others in a stabbing, shooting and vehicle-ramming attack in 2014 near the UC Santa Barbara campus.

Investigators noted that Rodger was motivated by a personal grievance related to the extremist ideological subculture of men’s rights activists propagated in online forums, such as 4Chan, Campbell said. Supporters believe women don’t want gender equality and have been brainwashed by feminist propaganda.

Rodger died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

How was he caught?

– Minassian was arrested in a white rental van less than 30 minutes after police got a 911 call about the deadly rampage, Saunders said.

– He may have engaged in a tense standoff with Toronto police before his arrest. A cell phone video obtained by CNN partner CTV appears to show a man standing in front of a white van with a damaged front bumper.

The man yells and extends one arm, pointing an object at an officer standing behind a black car.

The officer, his weapon drawn, points at the man. The officer slowly steps toward him and yells “Get down, get down!”

Later in the video, the man is seen on the ground as the officer cuffs his hands behind him; the object, which Saunders denied was a gun, can be seen lying on the ground.

By Michelle Krupa, CNN