Canadian man convicted of murder for killing 4 Muslim family members with his pickup

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WINDSOR, Ontario (AP) — A Canadian man was found guilty Thursday of four counts of first-degree murder for deliberately using his pickup to kill four members of a Muslim family two years ago.

The jury also convicted Nathaniel Veltman, 22, guilty of one count of attempted murder for injuring a fifth family member in the incident in London, Ont.

Veltman, who had pleaded not guilty, quietly looked straight ahead as the verdict was delivered after the jury deliberated for roughly five hours. Members of the Muslim community hugged relatives of the victims in the courtroom.

Prosecutors argued that Veltman purposely ran his truck into the Afzaal family while they were out for a walk on June 6, 2021, to intimidate Muslims into leaving Canada. The defense sought to show he wasn’t criminally liable because of the mental health problems.

Killed were Salman Afzaal, 46; his wife, Madiha Salman, 44; their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna; and 74-year-old grandmother Talat Afzaal. The couple’s 9-year-old son was seriously injured.

The case, which the jury heard over more than two months, was the first in which Canada’s terrorism laws were put before a jury in a first-degree murder trial.

Prosecutor Fraser Ball argued in his closing arguments this week that the evidence showed Veltman planned the attack for months, noting he bought a large pickup on a loan shortly before and installed a heavy grille guard on it.

Ball said Veltman wanted to send a message to Muslims in Canada that they would be killed like the Afzaal family if they didn’t leave the country. He said Veltman also wanted to inspire other white nationalists to commit violent attacks.

Among the evidence presented during the trial was a video of Veltman telling a detective that his attack was motivated by white nationalist beliefs. Jurors also heard testimony that Veltman wrote a manifesto in the weeks before the attack describing himself as a white nationalist.

Defense lawyer Christopher Hicks argued against a first-degree murder verdict, saying Veltman has several mental disorders, including severe depression, autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and had ingested magic mushrooms two days before the attack.

He said Veltman’s conduct around the time of the attack demonstrated “elevated” and “unpredictable” behavior.

A forensic psychiatrist called by the defense testified that Veltman does have mental health issues but said he did not qualify to be considered not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

During the trial, Veltman testified he was influenced by the writings of a gunman who committed the 2019 mass killings of 51 Muslim worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand.

He told jurors he had been considering using his pickup for an attack and looked up information online about what happens when pedestrians get struck by cars at various speeds.

He told the jury he felt an “urge” to hit the family when he saw them walking on a sidewalk, saying he knew they were Muslims from the clothes they were wearing.

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