Full details of van attack recounted at start of Minassian trial this week

·4 min read

TORONTO — The final resting spot. 

That was the phrase a prosecutor used over and over this week to describe the bloodied sidewalks, streets and squares where the lives of several pedestrians ended after Alek Minassian drove a van down a bustling Toronto sidewalk two years ago. 

Eight people died at the 2.5 kilometre-long crime scene on Yonge Street, one died in an ambulance and another died in hospital that day in April 2018. Sixteen others were hurt, some catastrophically.

Minassian, who faces 10 counts of murder and 16 counts of attempted murder, has admitted to planning and carrying out the attack but has asked to be found not criminally responsible for his actions. 

While the trial that began Tuesday will focus largely on Minassian's state of mind at the time, Crown lawyer Joe Callaghan's detailed recounting of the attack in an agreed statement of facts has laid out just what happened to every person who was hit. 

Many of Minassian's victims were struck from behind and did not see him coming.

"People were not  prepared for such an attack," Callaghan said Tuesday at the trial, which is being conducted via videoconference due to the pandemic.

Minassian began his attack at around 1:27 p.m. 

He hopped the curb at Yonge Street and Finch Avenue and drove straight toward seven people outside a Korean barbecue restaurant.

Ji Hun Kim had just crossed the road when she was struck. A number of bystanders, including a police officer, performed first aid but she died where she was hit.

So He Chung was walking with her friend, So Ra, when Minassian hit both of them. 

Emergency crews performed first aid on Chung, but she also died at the scene. 

"At no point after hitting this first group of people did Minassian slow down or stop to render assistance to those he struck," Callaghan said.

Further south on Yonge Street, Minassian hit Geraldine Brady, 83.

She had parked her car outside a Shoppers Drug Mart and had just gotten onto the sidewalk when Minassian hit her from behind.

She flew forward and struck her head on the ground and slid to her final resting spot, Callaghan said. 

Chul Min Kang, 45, was also hit from behind as Minassian sped down the street.

"The van went by so fast that it shook a store-front window," Callaghan said. 

Kang was dragged under the van, his body creating a scuff mark on the sidewalk. He died at the scene. 

Shortly after Minassian hit Robert Anderson, who flew in the air and landed on his head so hard that his socks flew off, court heard. 

The 59-year-old suffered bleeding in his skull, broken ribs, a collapsed lung and bleeding in his kidney. He somehow survived.

Minassian then hit Mary Elizabeth Forsyth, 94, who was out with her walker, from behind. She flipped over and landed on the sidewalk. She had a major head injury and died in hospital. 

He then hit four more pedestrians, all of whom survived. 

Amir Kiumarsi's skull and spine fractured. Catherine Riddell, then 67, was launched into a bus shelter, glass raining down on her. She suffered a brain injury along with broken ribs, scapula and pelvis.

Yunsheng (Bob) Tian was hit and run over, suffering a traumatic brain injury, spinal fractures, 24 broken vertebrae and facial fractures. He survived.

Minassian veered off the sidewalk at one point and drove directly at 85-year-old Munir Abdo Habib Najjar, who was walking across the street. 

Najjar flew two metres in the air, landed head first on the pavement and slid another six metres to his final resting spot. 

Minassian then drove into six people. 

Anne Marie D'Amico was run over and dragged. She died en route to hospital. 

Beverly Smith, then 81, was walking southbound when Minassian came up from behind, hit her and ran over her legs, both of which had to be amputated.

Renuka Amarasingha, 45, and Andrea Bradden, 33, came to rest at the same spot, although the two were separated by more than 100 metres seconds before.

Amarasingha was walking across the sidewalk when Minassian hit her. She got caught underneath the van and dragged for 152 metres, only coming free when the van hit Bradden.

Bradden had just left a Starbucks with a friend when Minassian approached from behind. Her friend heard a commotion, according to the statement of facts, saw the van and moved to avoid it.

"While under the van, Bradden made contact with Amarasingha, who was still being dragged under the van," Callaghan said. "Both victims were dislodged from the rear of the vehicle."

Minassian also hit 80-year-old Dorothy Sewell, running her over. She came to rest near a taco truck.

The cause of death for many killed: blunt force injuries. 

It was another phrase Callaghan repeated over and over.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 11, 2020.

Liam Casey, The Canadian Press