Toronto officer praised for ‘terrific policing’ after arresting van attack suspect without firing shot

Handout via Storyful
Handout via Storyful

(TORONTO) — “Rigorous training” enabled a Toronto police officer to confront the man accused of plowing into pedestrians with a van Monday, Toronto Police Service Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said in a press conference today.

Constable Ken Lam, 42, has been praised by officials for how he was able to apprehend the suspect without firing a single shot.

Dramatic video taken by an onlooker shows the moment the traffic enforcement officer gets out of his unmarked vehicle in the middle of the street in northern Toronto and engages in a standoff with the suspect.

By that point, the suspect had allegedly rammed numerous pedestrians while driving down Yonge Street in the Canadian city’s bustling North York neighborhood. The battered white van then turned onto Poyntz Avenue, where it finally stopped, police said. That’s when the alleged driver got out of the vehicle and was confronted by a lone police officer.

In the video footage, the officer draws his firearm and can be heard repeatedly shouting at the suspect to “get down” amid a blaring siren.

The suspect, clad in black pants with a black jacket over a blue shirt, has also drawn an object and is seen in the video pointing it at the officer. The officer repeats his calls for the man to “get down.”

The suspect then repeatedly draws and aims the object at the officer.

The officer quickly reaches into his vehicle to turn off the siren and then draws his gun again.

“Come on, get down!” the officer yells at the suspect.

“Kill me!” the suspect shouts while pointing the object at the officer.

The officer responds, “No, get down! Get down!”

“I have a gun in my pocket,” the suspect says, with the object still drawn in his hands.

“I don’t care, get down!” the officer responds.

“I have gun in my pocket,” the suspect says again.

“Shoot me in the head!” the suspect responds before starting to walk toward the officer with the object still in his hands.

The officer takes a few steps back and yells, “Get down on the ground! Get down! Get down! Get down!”

At this point, the suspect finally yields to the officer’s commands and lays face down on the sidewalk.

“Hands behind your back!” the officer shouts as he runs toward the suspect on the ground and handcuffs him.

The officer never fires his weapon in the entire encounter.

Lam is “doing well” as he participates in an “after-care program” for officers who go through a traumatic experience, Yuen said, touting Toronto Police’s program as the “best” in North America.

Yuen has been in “constant contact” with Lam since the attack, he said. While he is in “good spirits,” he insists that recognition should also be given to the other first responders who were on the scene that day.

“He’s very selflessly saying he doesn’t deserve all the credit,” Yuen said.

Lam was born and raised in Toronto, where his father ran a restaurant after immigrating there from Hong Kong, the deputy police chief said. After college, he worked as a “successful engineer” before quitting to become a police officer.

“He asked himself, ‘What can I do for this world, for the city of Toronto?'” Yuen said.

Around the police service, he is known as “the guy who sells stuff” for charity, Yuen said.

Lam, who has a wife and children, is requesting privacy at this time, Yuen said.

The suspect, identified by authorities as 25-year-old Alek Minassian of Toronto, was arrested and later charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder as well as 13 counts of attempted murder. So far, there’s no indication that Minassian was armed with a gun, police said. It’s not clear what object he was holding.

Ten people were killed and 14 others were injured in Monday’s attack, police said.

Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders praised how the officer handled the situation.

“I can tell you it’s directly related to the high-caliber training that takes place. The officers here are taught to use as little force as possible in any given situation,” Saunders told reporters during a press conference Monday. “The officer did a fantastic job with respect to utilizing his ability of understanding the circumstances and the environment and having a peaceful resolution.”

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Saunders said the officer showed a combination of remarkable restraint and remarkable training. When the police chief briefly spoke with the officer, he said he had defaulted to his training and was thankful for the support he’s received.

Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, told ABC News that Lam “did everything he was trained to do.”

“He was constantly surveilling,” McCormack said. “This officer showed amazing ability from his training.”

Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynn said she watched the footage of the standoff and said it shows “terrific policing.”

“The way he behaved was pretty much an example of terrific policing,” Wynn said at a press conference Wednesday morning.

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