Why A 20-Year-Old Man Killed 4 Members Of A Muslim Family In What Police Call A 'Targeted Attack'

Visitors bring flowers to the site of the attack

On Sunday, June 6, a Muslim family was hit by a truck while waiting to cross the street in London, Ontario. Tragically, four out of the five members of the family were killed. The only survivor was a 9-year-old boy. 

The dead were identified in a statement issued by the victims' extended family: Salman Afzal, 46, a physiotherapist and cricket enthusiast; his wife Madiha, 44, who was working on her PhD in civil engineering at Western University; their daughter Yumna, 15, a ninth-grader; and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name has not been released. The surviving boy is Fayez, son of Salman and Madiha. 

Who is Nathaniel Veltman and why did he murder a Muslim family of 4? 

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been arrested for striking the family with his truck while they were on their evening walk. His black pickup truck mounted the curb and hit the family at an intersection.

Police believe that this was a crime fueled by Islamophobia. While there is no connection between Veltman and the family, Detective Superintendent Paul Waight said in a press conference, "There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act motivated by hate.”

Veltman was arrested at a local mall and has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder. There is potential for the filing of terrorism charges.

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The Afzal family immigrated to Canada 14 years ago. According to a statement from their extended family, "Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzal family know 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 spiritual their identity."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was shaken by this crime just as much as the residence of London, Ontario. In a statement made to Parliament he said, “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?'”

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Friends and family gathered around the light pole and tree where the family was struck for a vigil Tuesday night. They placed flowers and lit candles in the shape of a heart to remember their lost loved ones.

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Family friend Rauf Ahmad attended the vigil He believed that there wasn’t racism in Canada but now is questioning his safety.

“Humanity is first," he said. "We should not care about whether someone is a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian.” 

The local police are working with federal authorities to determine Veltman’s motivation and if he belonged to any hate groups. 

A GoFundMe has been created for the family to help with funeral costs and donate on behalf of the deceased. You can donate here

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Leeann Reed is a writer who covers news, pop culture, and love, and relationship topics.