A 20-year-old man was charged Monday with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in a hit and run Sunday involving a pickup truck, in what London, Ont., police believe was a targeted attack on a Muslim family of five.
Terrorism charges are also possible against Nathanial Veltman, 20, of London, said Det.-Insp. Paul Waight.
He appeared in court via video link Monday afternoon.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act and that the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith,” said Det.-Insp. Paul Waight.
“This is a devastating loss of four members of our community,” added police Chief Steve Williams at an afternoon news conference.
The vehicle struck the family at 8:40 p.m. ET Sunday as they walked along Hyde Park Road, in northwest London.
Dead are a:
- 74-year-old woman.
- 46-year-old man.
- 44-year-old woman.
- 15-year-old girl.
A nine-year-old boy is the only survivor of the family, officials say. He remained in hospital with serious injuries.
“These were innocent human beings who were killed simply because they were Muslim,” said Nawaz Tahir, a London lawyer and representative of the Muslim community.
“We will stand strong against hate. We will stand strong against Islamophobia. We will stand strong against terror with faith, with love, and a quest for justice. Hate will never overshadow the light of love.”
No previous record
Waight told the news conference it wasn’t certain if the accused was affliliated with any specific hate group.
The 20-year-old doesn’t have a previous criminal record.
Veltman was arrested a short distance away from the scene of the crash, at Oxford Street West and Cherryhill Boulevard, near Cherryhill Mall. He was wearing a vest that appeared to be similar to body armour, Waight said.
Neighbours say speeding common
Paige Martin, a nearby resident who was driving at around 8:30 p.m. that night to get gas, was stopped at a red light facing southbound when she saw “a flash of black” speed by, shaking her vehicle as it passed.
She proceeded to the gas station. On her way back home, looking in her rearview mirror, she saw cars backed up on Sarnia Road and emergency vehicles arriving.
“It was just chaos, and there were people everywhere running, and citizens just trying to direct emergency vehicles where to go. There was pointing and screaming, and arms waving. It was just absolutely like something that you never want to see,” said Martin.
Kristin, another nearby resident who did not want her last name published for privacy reasons, was at home making dinner with her fiancé when the couple heard the crash. They ran out of the house to investigate, but she didn’t realize how severe the situation was until they saw cars begin to pull over.
She said her fiancé saw a large black truck drive away from the scene.
“I didn’t see the truck, but my fiancé did,” said Kristin. “And he said it was one of the really big ones, like an extended back. Couldn’t tell if it was four-door or not. He slowed down for like five seconds, then went as fast as he could out of there. So it’s just terrible.”
Kristin said that in the three months she has lived in the area, she tends to avoid riding her bike on the road because of speeding drivers.
Hyde Park Road was closed between Sarnia and Gainsborough roads as police investigated. The intersection near where the crash happened has a Peavey Mart (formerly TSC Stores) on one corner. There’s a new set of lights at the intersection, and a new subdivision behind the Peavey Mart.