Who Is Ken Lam? The Officer Who Refused to Shoot Toronto Van Attack Suspect

Chantal Da Silva

The Toronto police officer hailed as a hero after refusing to shoot the suspect in Monday's van attack has been identified as Ken Lam.

While Lam has stayed out of the public spotlight since the attack, people around the world are praising him for his bravery in the arrest of 25-year-old Alek Minassian, the man accused of killing 10 people and leaving 15 others seriously injured after driving a van into a crowd of people at a busy intersection. 

Toronto Police Association President Mike McCormack told local media that Lam is in his 30s and has been with the Toronto Police Service for seven years. Describing Lam as humble, McCormack told The Globe and Mail the police officer had said he was only doing his job when he carried out the arrest.

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A man writes a message on a sign during a vigil April 24, 2018 in Toronto, Canada, near the site of the previous day's deadly street van attack. The officer who arrested the suspect in the attack is being praised for refusing to fire his weapon during the arrest. GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty

Lam told McCormack, ‘'Mike, I just did my job. What I did was no big deal. But look at these poor people,'" the association president said. "That's what everyone’s thinking: Great, he did his job and arrested this guy and may have prevented further deaths."

"He's more concerned with 10 people being dead, 15 people being injured, why now and what’s happening in this city," McCormack added.

As it turns out, the call to police duty appears to run in Lam's family. The Toronto police officer's father, David Lam, was once an officer himself in Hong King. 

David, who now owns a restaurant in Markham, told local broadcaster Global News that he was proud of his son for doing a "good job." He added that being a police officer is not about being a "hero."

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"My son called me [and] told me, 'Daddy, everything is fine. I arrested the suspect… I didn't even fire any shots,'" David said.

Read more: Toronto van attack officer hailed as 'hero' for refusing to shoot suspect

"I said, 'You did a good job'... I feel proud of him... but I’m still like the other fathers–I'm scared," he said, adding, "It's not a matter of [being] hero or not, it's the matter of you're the policeman. You're here to do your own job."

David told the broadcaster that he was in the process of getting the details from the Monday event.  

Newsweek could not reach David Lam for comment. 

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Dramatic video of the standoff between the younger Lam and the suspect, later identified by police as Minassian, captured the arrest as it unfolded. In the video, Minassian can be seen repeatedly drawing and aiming an object at the officer, demanding that Lam kill him.

"Kill me!" Minassian can be heard shouting after Lam tells him to "get down." "No," Lam shouts, repeating his calls for the suspect to surrender.

Even when Minassian warns that he has a "gun" in his pocket, Lam shouts, "I don't care," telling him once again to "get down." "Get down or you're going to get shot," he warns again. 

When the suspect tells Lam to shoot him "in the head," the officer risks moving closer to him instead, until the two are just inches away from each other. That's when Minassian finally relents, lying facedown on the ground, allowing Lam to handcuff him. 

Lam's refusal to use his firearm has earned praise from people across Canada and around the world, with Canadian radio host Brian Lilley calling the police officer a "portrait in bravery." 

Canadian actress Carly Pope also praised the officer, commending Lam for "using peace," "restraint" and "heroics in the face of unconscionable violence."

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders said at a news conference Monday evening that Lam's actions were due in part to the "high-caliber training that takes place" within the Toronto Police Service. "Officers are taught to use as little force as possible in any situation," he said. 

He said Lam did a "fantastic job," putting his "ability of understanding the circumstance and environment" to work and bringing a "peaceful resolution at the end of the day."

This article was first written by Newsweek

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