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The 20-year-old man charged with four counts of first-degree murder in the pickup truck attack against a Muslim family in Canada was described as a “nice guy” by co-workers — and had no known ties to hate groups.
Nathaniel Veltman is accused of killing Salman Afzaal, 46, his wife, Madiha, 44, their daughter Yumna, 15, and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother — and injuring the couple’s 9-year-old son, Fayez.
The suspect worked part-time at Gray Ridge Egg Farms, an egg-packing facility in Strathroy, Ontario, CTV News reported.
In a statement, company CEO William Gray said management and staff “were shocked and saddened” to find out one of their workers had been charged in the attack.
“We join our community in expressing condemnation of this violent attack and offer our heartfelt sympathy to the family and the Muslim community,” Gray said in the statement.
Tina Perry, a former longtime co-worker of Veltman, told CTV News that he was a nice guy who kept to himself and was always available to help when someone needed it.
“He was always a nice guy,” she told the outlet. “I’ve never heard anything bad about him. I’m very shaken up about this.”
Arman Moradpourian, another friend who worked with Veltman, called him a very devout Christian and said he was home-schooled.
Moradpourian added that Veltman didn’t have a problem with him being Persian and raised Muslim.
“He never judged me,” he told the Associated Press. “He would give his shirt off his back for you.”
Veltman has not been charged with a hate crime, but police are still considering additional charges.
“The terrorism charge is certainly on the radar,” London, Ontario, Police Chief Stephen Williams told CTV News.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the incident “a terrorist attack, motivated by hatred, in the heart of one of our communities.”
“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’?” Trudeau told Parliament.
Many Canadians have been enjoying evening walks to get fresh air after long days at home during the pandemic, he said.
“But unlike every other night, this family never made it home,” he continued. “Their lives were taken in a brutal, cowardly and brazen act of violence. This killing was no accident. … Canadians are outraged by what happened on Sunday. And many Muslim Canadians are scared.”
Trudeau partly blamed rhetoric, disinformation and extremism online and in politics for the attack.
“They can be a seed that grows into an ugly, pervasive trend. And sometimes, they lead to real violence,” the prime minister said.
Thousands of mourners including Trudeau and the leaders of all of Canada’s political parties attended a vigil Tuesday night at the mosque the family attended.
“There are no words that can ease the grief of having three generations murdered in their neighborhood,” Trudeau told the crowd.
“There are no words that can undo the pain and, yes, the anger of this community. There are no words that can fix the future of that little boy who has had his future taken away. But know this: You are not alone. All Canadians mourn with you and stand with you,” he added.
Imam Abd Alfatah Twakkal of the London Muslim Mosque said he hoped the vigil would be pivotal in the fight against the scourge of racism and discrimination.
“Every single one of us need to do our part,” he said.
With Post wires
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