Four members of a Pakistani Muslim family have been killed after they were hit by a truck in what police are saying is a hate crime targeting Muslims in Ontario, Canada. According to the BBC, the victims are Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife Madiha Salman, 44, their daughter Yumna Afzaal, 15, and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother. The couple’s nine-year-old son was also hit but survived and is in the hospital. A 20-year-old Canadian man, Nathaniel Veltman was arrested for allegedly running the family over with a truck.
On Sunday, the family of five was out on an evening walk in London, Ontario waiting at a crosswalk when a truck jumped the curb and slammed into them.
The suspect fled the scene after running the family over but was arrested later at a mall parking lot. He was arrested without incident but was wearing a body-armor-type vest.
“There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act, motivated by hate. It is believed that these victims were targeted because they were Muslim,” Detective Superintendent Paul Waight of the London Police said according to CNN. “There is no known previous connection between the suspect and the victims.”
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed the Parliament about the incident.
“This was a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities,” Trudeau said, reports ABC News. “If anyone thinks racism and hatred don’t exist in this country, I want to say this: How do we explain such violence to a child in a hospital? How can we look families in the eye and say “Islamophobia isn’t real” … Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly and brazen act of violence. This killing was no accident. … Canadians are outraged by what happened on Sunday. And many Muslim Canadians are scared.”
The family immigrated from Pakistan to Canada around 14 years ago.
They were beloved members of the London community, according to a Gofundme set up to help the family. The Gofundme said Salman Afzaal was a physiotherapist and that his wife Madiha was in the process of obtaining her Ph.D. in Civil engineering. The 15-year-old daughter just finished ninth grade while the grandmother was a “pillar of their family.”
Afzal’s extended family said his relatives were the “model family they were as Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis. They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled. Their children were top students in their school and connected strongly with their spiritual identity,” reports ABC News.
The family urged the public to fight against Islamophobia.
“This young man who committed this act of terror was influenced by a group that he associated with, and the rest of the community must take a strong stand against this, from the highest levels in our government to every member of the community,” the statement said.
The suspect Nathaniel Veltman was charged with four counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.