A 25-year-old suspect was captured in a tense but brief confrontation with officers a few streets away from where his van mounted the pavement and continued for a mile, leaving people bloodied and dead.
Authorities are piecing together witness accounts and surveillance video but have not yet disclosed a possible motive or cause, even as the police chief agreed with witnesses that it seemed intentional.
“The incident definitely looked deliberate,” police chief Mark Saunders told reporters.
Mr Saunders said the suspect, Alek Minassian, who lives in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, had not been known to police previously. An online social media profile described him as a college student.
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Officials would not comment on a possible motive except to play down a possible connection to terrorism after the incident had several similarities to a series of attacks involving vehicles and pedestrians in Europe, and the presence in Toronto this week of cabinet ministers from the G7 nations.
Asked if there was any evidence of a terrorist link, Mr Saunders said: “Based on what we have there’s nothing that has it to compromise the national security at this time.”
A senior national government official said earlier that authorities had not turned over the investigation to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a sign that investigators believed it was unlikely that terrorism was the motive.
“I can assure the public all our available resources have been brought in to investigate this tragic situation,” Toronto Police Services Deputy Chief Peter Yuen said earlier.
Police said the suspect was scheduled to appear in court at 10am on Tuesday (3pm BST), and that information on the charges against him would be released at that time.
The incident occurred as cabinet ministers from the major industrial countries were gathered in Canada to discuss a range of international issues in the run-up to the G7 meeting near Quebec City in June.
Canadian public safety minister Ralph Goodale called the incident an “horrific attack” and said the G7 foreign ministers extended their condolences.
The driver was heading south on the busy Yonge Street at around 1.30pm and the streets were crowded with people enjoying an unseasonably warm day when the van mounted the pavement.
Ali Shaker, who was driving near the van at the time, told Canadian broadcast outlet CP24 that the driver appeared to be moving deliberately through the crowd at more than 30 mph.
“He just went on the sidewalk,” Mr Shaker said. “He just started hitting everybody, man. He hit every single person on the sidewalk. Anybody in his way he would hit.”
Witness Peter Kang told CTV News that the driver did not seem to make any effort to stop.
“If it was an accident he would have stopped,” Mr Kang said. “But the person just went through the sidewalk. He could have stopped.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau expressed his sympathies for those involved.
“We should all feel safe walking in our cities and communities,” he said. “We are monitoring this situation closely, and will continue working with our law enforcement partners around the country to ensure the safety and security of all Canadians.”