WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) — Canadian federal prosecutors argued that a man facing murder charges in the deaths of four members of a Muslim family was motivated by white nationalist beliefs as they branded the attack an act of terrorism.
Nathaniel Veltman, 22, is accused of deliberately hitting five members of the Afzaal family with his truck while they were out for a walk in London, Ontario, on the evening of June 6, 2021.
Federal prosecutor Sarah Shaikh said in her opening statement on Monday that Veltman planned his attack for three months before driving his Dodge Ram truck directly at the Muslim family.
She said Veltman drove his truck, which he bought just over two weeks before the attack, “pedal to the metal,” kicking up a cloud of dust as the vehicle surged over the sidewalk’s curb, striking his victims.
Shaikh said Veltman told detectives after he was arrested that his intentions were political, that he left his home on the day of the attack looking for Muslims to kill and that he used a truck to send a message to others that vehicles can be used to attack Muslims.
Veltman has pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. He is also facing terrorism counts.
Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed in the London attack. The couple’s nine-year-old son was also seriously hurt but survived.
The attack on the Afzaal family sent waves of shock, grief and fear across Canada and spurred ongoing calls for measures to combat Islamophobia.
Veltman, who wore an over-sized wrinkled black suit and white shirt, sat quietly in court as proceedings began but his hand was shaking when he tried to pour water into a paper cup on his desk. His lawyer Peter Ketcheson took the jug and filled his cup with some water.
The trial is expected to last about eight weeks.