Canadian police say a driver committed a “deliberate act” when he drove a pickup truck into pedestrians in a small town in the eastern province of Quebec, killing at least two people and injuring nine others.
The truck hit several people outside a microbrewery in Amqui on Monday and then drove another 400 to 500 meters along the road, swerving and hitting more people, witnesses told local media.
Quebec’s provincial police said two victims — men aged 60 and 70 respectively — were killed and nine other people were injured, including three in serious condition. Among the injured are a baby and a toddler, authorities said.
The 38-year-old driver, a local man, turned himself in to police and has been charged with two counts of dangerous driving resulting in death, Canadian broadcaster CBC reported.
He briefly appeared in court on Tuesday afternoon. Film material shared by local reporters on social media showed a small crowd of people shouting insults at the suspect, Steeve Gagnon, as he entered the local courthouse.
“It has been determined that the person committed these acts intentionally, so that is why we are currently talking about a murder investigation,” Sergeant Claude Doiron, spokesman for the Quebec Provincial Police, told reporters earlier in the day.
My heart is with the people of Amqui, Quebec today. As we learn more about the tragic events that took place, I will keep everyone involved in my thoughts. And to the first responders: thank you for acting quickly, courageously and professionally.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) March 13, 2023
Doiron said the motive is still under investigation, but police believe the incident was “premeditated” and that the victims were “arbitrarily targeted”.
“We’re talking about pedestrians traveling along Route 132 on both sides of the road,” he said. “We do not know the individual’s motives and state of mind when he committed these acts.”
Prosecutor Simon Blanchette told reporters that additional charges could be brought. “But before we talk about murder, premeditated or otherwise, we need to collect the evidence,” he said.
“So we have to let the police do their job. Their investigation is not over yet.”
The incident happened just after 3 p.m. (7 p.m. GMT) on Monday along St-Benoit Boulevard in Amqui, a town of about 6,000 people located 350 km (220 mi) northeast of Quebec City.
“My heart is with the people of Amqui, Quebec today,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a Twitter post. “As we learn more about the tragic events that have taken place, I will keep everyone affected in my thoughts.”
Mayor Sylvie Blanchette said every effort would be made to support residents.
“I am here for the people of Amqui to tell them that we are with them wholeheartedly,” she said, as reported by Radio-Canada. “We know they need support and that’s what we’re going to do in the hours and days ahead.”
I would like the curtain of Québec so mis en berne demain, the aube au crépuscule, sur la tour central de l’Assemblée nationale and memoirs of the victims of the tragédie d’Amqui. Most victims are likely to be small municipalities.
— François Legault (@francoislegault) March 14, 2023
Translation: I have asked that the Quebec flag be flown at half-mast tomorrow, from sunrise to sunset, on the central tower of the National Assembly in memory of the victims of the Amqui tragedy. My deepest condolences to the victims and their loved ones in this small community.
Quebec Premier Francois Legault also offered his condolences and said he requested that the flag be flown at half-mast at the provincial legislature in Quebec City on Wednesday.
“My condolences to the victims and their loved ones in this small community,” he wrote on Twitter.
Last month, police in Laval, Quebec, said a man driving a city bus deliberately drove into a daycare center, killing two children.
In 2021, a man used a pickup truck to murder four members of an immigrant family in London, Ontario, in what Trudeau said was a hate crime against Muslims.
In 2018, a man in a van rampaged through pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10 people.