TORONTO (AP) — A man who allegedly used a van to kill 10 pedestrians in Toronto pleaded not guilty Tuesday and his lawyer said he will argue he is not criminally responsible because of his state of mind at the time.
Alek Minassian faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder in connection with the April 23, 2018, attack that drew attention to an online world of sexual loneliness, rage and misogyny.
Minassian, 28, told police he belonged to an online community of sexually frustrated men, some of whom have plotted attacks on people who have sex.
He is accused of driving a rental van into crowds of pedestrians in a busy north Toronto neighborhood. Eight women and two men ranging in age from 22 to 94 died.
“I am entering a plea of not criminally responsible for all of the counts,” Minassian said via a Zoom call while sitting on a chair in a small holding room, wearing a dark blazer and collared shirt. The court opted for a trial on Zoom videoconference because of the coronavirujs pandemic.
His lawyer, Boris Bytensky, said he will argue his client was not criminally responsible due to a mental disorder.
The judge has said the case will turn on Minassian’s state of mind at the time.
“On a warm spring afternoon on April 23, 2018, numerous pedestrians were out along Yonge enjoying the sunshine when their worlds were shattered by the actions of Mr. Minassian,” prosecution lawyer Joe Callaghan said.
Reading a statement of facts that both sides agreed on, Callaghan said Minassian drove “straight at people.”
“The only issue at this trial is the criminal responsibility,” Callaghan said.
The prosecution showed family photographs of each of the victims faces as Callaghan detailed how they were struck. One of those killed was dragged for over 150 meters. Many were struck from behind.
The court heard of many serious injuries, including brain damage and amputated legs.
Minassian booked the rental nearly three weeks before the attack. “Minassian began planning the murders in advance,” Callaghan said. He said the defendant thought was getting a truck when he arrived at the car rental location.
The prosecution also showed a video of his police interrogation. In it Minassian acknowledged using the van to kill.
“I feel like I accomplished my mission,” Minassian said when asked by a detective how he felt about the deaths of 10 people.
Minassian, who said he never had a girlfriend and was a virgin, admitted he used the van as a weapon and said he wanted to inspire more attacks.
Minassian called himself an “incel,” short for “involuntary celibate,” an online subculture that has been linked to other attacks and that often promotes the idea men are entitled to have sex with women.
Like-minded people in internet forums sometimes use “Chad” and “Stacy” as dismissive slang for men and women with more active sex lives.
“It’s basically a movement of angry incels such as myself who unable to get laid, therefore we want to overthrow the Chads,” he said.
He added the goal is to force “Staceys” to reproduce with incels.
Minassian said he had been in contact with Elliot Rodger, a community college student who killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara, before apparently shooting himself to death.
“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Minassian posted right before the attack.
Minassian claimed he began to think this way in 2013 after he went to a Halloween party and was laughed at by women he tried to socialize with. He said he was upset the women gave affection to guys with “big arms.”
“I was angry that they would give their love and affection to obnoxious brutes,” he said.