News / Toronto

North York military stabbing suspect faces nine charges

"Don't go to that Islamophobic nonsense," said Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders during a news conference on the attack.

Montreal-born Ayanle Hassan Ali has been charged in connection to Monday's double stabbing.

Contributed/Toronto Police

Montreal-born Ayanle Hassan Ali has been charged in connection to Monday's double stabbing.

Ayanle Hassan Ali , 27, accused in an assault at a Canadian Forces recruitment centre Monday, appeared solemn in court Tuesday afternoon.

Ali, now faces a total of nine charges stemming from the attack. He faces three counts of attempted murder, two counts of aggravated assault, three counts of assault with a weapon and one count for possessing a weapon (for a dangerous purpose).

Ryan Kong, Jesus Castillo and Tracy Ann Gerhardt were taken to hospital, following the assault, with minor injuries but have since been released.

Justice William Danbrook also approved the Crown's request to remand Ali for three days as the investigation continues. He is due back in court on March 18.

Avoiding the stares of packed Finch Ave. courtroom, he stared at the floor and to his side. He wears a thick beard, was dressed in a white hooded jumpsuit that zipped up to the collar.

Ali was born in Montreal but moved to Toronto in 2011. He currently lives in an Etobicoke apartment.

David Burke, Ali’s lawyer, spoke briefly to reporters outside the courthouse.

Burke confirmed that his client has no prior convictions, but would not comment on Ali’s personal life, including his living arrangements, lifestyle, or what brought him to Toronto five years ago.

When asked if Burke thought the response to Monday’s attack was a bit of an “overreaction,” Burke said, “This is a very serious incident, nobody can deny that…Overreaction, I wouldn't say that, but at the end of the day, it remains to be seen exactly what kind of a person we are dealing with.”

Burke said the defence would seek bail “if we have the appropriate sureties in place.”

“If, in fact, we do not feel we have the appropriate sureties, and as I said, they’d have to be strong sureties, this gentleman is not going to be let out on bail for anything but the best of plans.”

Burke said his client appears very scared and “very unhappy to be in the position he finds himself in today,” however he would not comment on whether Ali appears to express any remorse.

As he attacked on Monday afternoon with a large knife, Ali, who has no criminal record, called out, “Allah told me to do this. Allah told me to come here and kill people,” Police Chief Mark Saunders said.

“It was heard by others,” Saunders said on Tuesday at a news conference, but he cautioned, “Don’t go to that Islamophobic nonsense.”

Ali was charged with a total of nine counts, according to court documents, including three of attempted murder and two of aggravated assault.

Two military personnel who worked at the Joseph Shepard Building were taken to hospital and have been released, Saunders said.

Saunders said the investigation is in the early stages. The OPP, RCMP and CSIS were also called in to help.

The man walked past a master corporal stationed at the door of the centre at 2:45 p.m. on Monday afternoon and then stabbed him when the soldier tried to stop him, Saunders said. He then cut another military member who tried to apprehend him, he said.

Ali didn’t cooperate with police after he was arrested, Saunders said, calling him, “unresponsive to any questions that were being asked.”

Asked if Ali is linked to any to terrorist groups, Saunders said, “We’re certainly looking into it.”

Saunders appealed to anyone who knows Ali or who saw anything suspicious around the recruiting centre on Monday afternoon to contact police.

“We are trying to develop a timeline,” Saunders said.

“We want to know who knew Mr. Ali and where he has been,” Saunders said.
Asked if Ali had been radicalized, Saunders said, “It’s too early to say any of that.”

Ayanle Hassan Ali arrives in a police car at a Toronto court house on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

The Canadian Press

Ayanle Hassan Ali arrives in a police car at a Toronto court house on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

In a tweet Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s military would “not be intimidated by terror and hate.” He also wished the injured soldiers a full recovery.

Meanwhile at the centre, Major Richard Silva said it was “business as usual” for Canadian Forces workers on Tuesday morning.

“They’re prepared to do their duties,” Silva said at a press conference outside the centre.

He, too, declined to comment on whether there has been any higher alert recently regarding possible terrorism.

“We always have to take care of our own people,” Silva said.

Security officers roamed the open concept dimly-lit building, the site of the stabbing on Yonge St., just north of Sheppard Ave. But they did not appear to be carrying guns.

There are several security cameras outside the recruitment centre. A guard at the front desk confirmed there was more security Tuesday.

The suspect was taken to a mental health hospital Monday to be evaluated.

According to the office of the Minister of National Defence, there were no warning signs before the attack.

“No suspicious activity had been observed by Canadian Armed Forces members who work in that location prior to the incident. CAF members will continue to exercise vigilance and apply the necessary force protection measures.”

Chief Mark Saunders speaks at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 about the attack on two Canadian soliders at a recruitment centre in the city's north end on Monday.

The Canadian Press

Chief Mark Saunders speaks at a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday, March 15, 2016 about the attack on two Canadian soliders at a recruitment centre in the city's north end on Monday.

The Joseph Shepard Building is an easily accessible 15-storey, modern office building with a roughly pyramidal shape.

Built from 1975 to 1977, the sprawling, 51,485-square-metre complex is open to the public, with public art, a courtyard and open terraces.

There are security cameras along its outside walls of the massive building, which has a front entrance that’s almost as large as the building is wide.

The doors lead to a warren of government offices, including one for issuing passports, as well as open-air terraces and a public courtyard and public shopping mall.

The Canadian Forces recruitment office where the attack took place is tucked away on the main floor, between an escalator and a cement staircase, about 40 yards and straight ahead from the front doors.