June 7 (UPI) — A hit-and-run incident in the Canadian province of Ontario that killed four members of the same family is being treated as a hate crime because the victims were Muslims, police said Monday.
A 20-year-old man has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the deaths Sunday of two women, a man and 15-year-old girl in London, Ontario, Detective Supt. Paul Waight of the London Police Service told reporters.
Nathanial Veltman is also charged with one count of attempted murder in connection with a fifth victim — a 9-year-old boy who has been hospitalized with serious injuries but is expected to survive.
Waight said the family members were killed when Veltman drove his pickup truck over a curb Sunday night and struck the five victims as they waited to cross an intersection in the city of 404,000, located about 110 miles west of Toronto.
The truck then sped off, not stopping for the red light, he said.
Emergency crews were quickly dispatched to the scene, but it was not enough to save a 74-year-old woman, a 46-year-old man, a 44-year-old woman and a 15-year-old girl.
Veltman was quickly arrested without incident in a shopping mall parking lot a few miles from the scene.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, pre-meditated attack motivated by hate,” Waight said. “It is believed these victims were targeted because they are Muslim.”
There is no immediate indication Veltman was acting in coordination with others, he added.
“Words fail on a day as dark as this,” London Mayor Ed Holder said during the news conference. “Our hearts are broken. I grieve for the family — three generations of whom are now deceased.”
He said the city’s Muslim population should feel safe in London.
“This is as much your city as it is mine. I want you to feel secure in our community,” said Holder.
London attorney and Muslim community leader Nawaz Tahir told reporters the city had suffered “an immense tragedy.”
“The horror that has visited this family, the Canadian Muslim community, and Canada at large last night is unfathomable,” he said. “These were innocent human beings who were killed simply because they were Muslim.”