Before Van Attack, Rental Staff Laughed as He Drove Away

Alek Minassian didn't know how to put in drive, according to 'Toronto Life' profile
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2019 10:45 AM CDT
Updated Apr 27, 2019 5:15 PM CDT
Before Van Attack, He Didn't Know How to Put It in Drive
In this courtroom sketch, Alek Minassian is seen second from left.   (Alexandra Newbould/The Canadian Press via AP)

One year after a van plowed into pedestrians on Toronto's busy Yonge Street, Toronto Life magazine has done a deep dive into the life of the man accused in the attack. Alek Minassian is 26 now, awaiting trial on 10 counts of murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. So what allegedly set him off? The story paints a picture of someone who never quite fit in from his earliest days of school. Angry outbursts, physical tics, special-needs classes, and an Asperger's diagnosis marked those years. Things didn't improve much as he grew older, with other students teasing him about his inability to connect with girls. The one part of his life in which he thrived: being online, particularly playing video games, where social cues weren't required. Minassian also did well in computer classes at Seneca College, with classmates considering him "brilliant."

But when it came to landing internships and jobs in the real world, he again struggled. Minassian joined the army, but he bailed 16 days into basic training, again because he struggled to adapt, physically and socially. He returned to school and embraced the "incel" movement, which had morphed into a community of angry "involuntarily celibate" young men. (He cited the movement online before the deadly drive, and eight of the 10 people killed were women.) The story has a remarkable anecdote about when Minassian rented the van. He was acting oddly, his hands were shaking, and a Ryder worker had to show him how put the vehicle in drive. "Then the parking lot gates slid open and Minassian drove away," writes Katherine Laidlaw. "The employees inside broke out laughing. It was the first time they'd seen a customer who didn't know how to put a rental in drive." Read the full story. (This story originally said Minassian attended York University; the error has been corrected.)

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