Police are investigating a hit-and-run that killed four people in London, Ontario, as a hate crime, saying the victims were targeted because they were Muslim.
A suspect, Nathanial Veltman, 20, was in custody after a family was hit by a car on Hyde Park Road at about 8:40 p.m. local time Sunday, the London Police Service said. The group was waiting to cross the road when a man in a black pickup truck jumped the curb and hit five people, all from the same family.
The truck sped off, running a red light, Detective Supt. Paul Waight said Monday. Veltman was found about 4 miles away and was arrested without incident.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act motivated by hate,” Waight said. “It is believed these victims were targeted because they were Muslim. There is no known previous connection between the suspect and the victims.”
Waight said it could be the most people killed at one time in the city’s history.
He did not detail the evidence that led investigators to believe it was a potential hate crime. Veltman is not known to be involved with any known hate groups or to have a criminal record, Waight said.
A woman was pronounced dead at the scene, and two adults and two children were taken to a hospital. A teenager and both adults, a man and a woman, died at the hospital. Authorities did not identify the victims at the family’s request, other than to say they were ages 15 to 74.
A 9-year-old boy was recovering in the hospital.
Veltman was charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, Waight said. He appeared in court by videoconference Monday afternoon, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
Terrorism charges are being considered, Weight said. It was unclear whether Veltman has an attorney.
London Mayor Ed Holder characterized the attack as an act of mass murder “rooted in unspeakable hatred.”
“We can say this isn’t who we are, and I know that to be true,” Holder said. “Words, though, are not enough. … This act of unspeakable hatred, this act of Islamophobia, must be followed by acts of compassion, acts of kindness, acts of empathy, acts of solidarity, justice and, above all, love.”