Former classmate describes Alek Minassian's 'weird noises', 'no friends'

Details emerge about worst mass murderer in Toronto history.

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

More details have emerged about the horrific attack on Yonge Street, and the man now charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. Alek Minassian attended Thornlea Secondary School, less than eight kilometres from the scene of Monday’s attack.

In an exclusive interview with the Toronto Sun, a young woman who went to high school with Minassian discusses her interactions with the man now charged in the worst mass murder in the city’s history.

“He was in a special-needs class,” said the source, who confirmed she went to the same school by sharing a yearbook photo. “We had a program where special-needs kids would be together.”

“Even though he was two years older than me, because of his disabilities, we were in the same English class,” recalled the source, who the Sun has decided not to name because the accused’s motive may have been tied to a hatred of women in his peer group.

“He wouldn’t talk, he never spoke,” she said, “but he would sometimes ‘meow’ at us – he would make weird noises to us.”

The source did not know what his specific disabilities were, or anything about his family and background. She didn’t know if he had any siblings, but said he had “no friends” at school.

“He wouldn’t talk. I never heard him speak any English – I didn’t know if he could speak at all,” she said. “He would just make noises.”

And while officials are ruling out terrorism as the motive, we’re still trying to piece together the chain of events that led to Monday’s massacre. 

A Facebook post, verified as legitimate by a Facebook spokesperson, reveals he was part of a community called “incel” – short for involuntarily celibate – a group of men who rant and rave online about their hatred for women. 

In the post, sent out just before his deadly attack, Minassian celebrates another “incel” mass murderer who killed four people then himself at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014.

Authorities have yet to publicly discuss Minassian’s motive, however, a hatred for women and the inability to get a girlfriend appears to be a possible component.

Much like the disgruntled ideologues who get radicalized online and join Islamist terrorist groups, those who describe themselves as “incels” turn to dark corners of the web to find like-minded people.

In November 2017, a 40,000 member “incel” community was banned from Reddit, a popular social news aggregator and discussion forum. Posts included calls to rape women and discussions about how men could get away with drugging and raping women.

Reddit said the group was banned for breaking its policy against content that “encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people.”

Also like the deranged losers of ISIS, Minassian is accused of using a tactic right out of the terrorist playbook – renting a large vehicle and using it to indiscriminately murder innocent civilians going about their day. 

The goal is to spread fear and division, to make us feel unsafe in our communities.

Minassian may have been a special-needs student in school, but, if the accusations about his motive prove true, he grew up to be a hateful man accused of one of the most despicable crimes in modern Canadian history.  

We shouldn’t use his learning disabilities as an excuse to shield him or his fellow “incel” travellers from criticism. Much like ISIS, they push a violent worldview that has led to unthinkable bloodshed.