A 38-year-old Canadian man is facing two charges of dangerous driving that caused his death and authorities said Tuesday they expect more charges, alleging he intentionally drove into randomly chosen pedestrians, including children, in an eastern Canadian city , killing two men and wounding nine people.
Police declined to comment on a possible reason for the crash on Monday afternoon in the Quebec province town of Amqui, about 350 kilometers northeast of Quebec City. A senior Canadian official has ruled out terrorism.
Steeve Gagnon – a thin, bearded man in glasses and a gray T-shirt – did not speak in court on Tuesday. His lawyer, Hugo Caissy, said his client understood the two charges against him and asked the judge to waive his obligation to hold a bail hearing within three days.
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Prosecutor Simon Blanchette said no doubt more charges would follow once all the evidence is gathered.
The case returns to court on April 5 and Gagnon will remain in custody until then.
Police earlier said the accused faced murder charges in relation to the deaths, saying the suspect had acted deliberately and with premeditation.
Quebec Provincial Police said their investigation suggests the driver swerved from side to side of the road a considerable distance to hit victims who appeared to have been selected at random.
The sergeant. Claude Doiron told reporters police believed the crash was intentional but did not suggest a motive.
“We’re talking about pedestrians who were walking all along the (street), on both sides in fact, for some distance,” he said.
Gérald Charest, 65, and Jean Lafrenière, 73, were killed.
Last month in Laval, Quebec, police said a city bus driver deliberately crashed into a day care center, killing two children. Immediately after the bus entered the building, the driver got off the bus, tore his clothes and started screaming, witnesses said.
“I feel terrible because this is happening for the second time in a month,” said Quebec premier François Legault.
Legault said “unfortunately this is happening everywhere in the world,” adding that there is a need for more support for mental health services. She also said people need to take action if they see anyone around them who appears to be at risk.
Three of the injured are in critical condition, police said. The injured include two children – one under the age of 1 and another about 3 – who were both seriously injured but whose lives were not in danger, officials said.
A senior government official with knowledge of the matter said the incident was not terrorism or national security related. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
The municipality of Amqui closed schools on Tuesday.
“We are all shaking thinking about what happened,” said Amqui Mayor Sylvie Blanchette.
Several ambulances rushed to the scene after the ramming which took place around 15:00
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David Morin, a local resident, said he couldn’t get the image of one of the victims out of his head.
“He was alive when I arrived, and when I went to see another person, I came back and he was dead,” she said.
Morin said residents rushed to the victims’ aid in the moments that followed. He recalled sitting next to a woman in a pink dress and asking her name while others helped the two small children.
Regional health authorities in the Lower St-Lawrence region confirmed six of the injured were airlifted to a Quebec City hospital.
In 2021, a man used a pickup truck to kill four members of an immigrant family in London, Ontario, in what Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a hate crime directed against Muslims.
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In 2018, a man in a van rampaged through pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10 people. Alek Minassian was found guilty of 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder. Minassian, 28, told police he belongs to an online community of sexually frustrated men, some of whom have planned attacks on people who have sex.