The man in the van
By Chad Ingram
Published April 26, 2018
It was mid-afternoon Monday when I realized something terrible had taken place in Toronto.
A journalist whom I follow on Twitter was urging people not to jump to conclusions about what had happened with the van before official information was released by authorities. When I got home from work, the aftermath of the carnage was unfolding live on all the news channels.
At that time there were nine dead, a number that would shortly climb to 10, after someone had driven a van down a busy section of Yonge Street between Finch and Sheppard Avenues around 1:30 that afternoon, mowing down pedestrians in his path.
A video shot by a bystander on a smartphone showed what appeared to be the driver of the van in a standoff with a police officer, instructing the officer to shoot him. That officer would in short order detain the suspect without incident.
On Facebook, friends who live and work in Toronto were marking themselves as safe, letting loved ones know they had not been affected. And that was perhaps the most shocking and horrifying part of Monday’s tragedy; the proximity, that it happened so close to home. Toronto is a city that many of us visit with some regularity and where many of us likely have some friends or family members. At one point or another, some of us have probably walked that very stretch of Yonge Street, where victims were possibly out on their lunch break, or simply enjoying what was the first truly nice day of this spring, before their lives came to a sudden and horrifying halt.
By dinnertime, the man in the van had been identified as a 25-year-old college student and by noon the next day, he’d been charged with 10 counts of first degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
As I write this, details about some of the victims are just beginning to emerge. Their lives are now stories with tragic, premature endings. Questions about the motives of the man in the van abound, and will of course continue to do so, as the media tries to piece together a portrait of the alleged killer.
In cases such as these, it’s of course natural to seek answers, but ultimately, whatever the motives of this clearly deranged individual were really don’t matter much.
What does matter is the way the situation was handled, and that is something that residents of Toronto, the province and the country as a whole can at least feel confident about.
The police officer who detained the suspect is rightly being called a hero. While the man in the van threatened him with an object he was trying to pass off as a gun, the officer calmly and quickly diffused the situation. He detained the man without firing a shot, carrying out his duties using as little force as possible, just as he was trained to do.
The federal government quickly made it clear to Canadians that as far as its intelligence agencies were concerned, there was no threat to national security. In Toronto, there were no security lock-downs or major transit interruptions, no widespread panic or hysteria. Just shock and sadness that an incident of such tremendous violence had occurred in Ontario’s capital and Canada’s largest city.
That is at least something to take stock in.