The verdict followed six hours of deliberations. Prosecutors had argued that Nathaniel Veltman, 22, spent months planning the assault and intentionally rammed his black pickup into a Pakistani Canadian family on a walk in London, a city 120 miles southwest of Toronto.
Four members of the Afzaal family were killed in the June 6, 2021, attack: Salman Afzaal, 46; his wife, Madiha Salman, 44; their daughter, Yumnah Afzaal, 15; and Salman’s mother, Talat Afzaal, 74. The couple’s 9-year-old son was seriously injured.
It was the deadliest assault on Muslims here since a man opened fire on a Quebec City mosque in 2017, killing six, and it revived calls for authorities to urgently adopt measures to tackle Islamophobia.
Veltman admitted to striking the Afzaal family and to writing a manifesto in which he called himself a white nationalist, railed against multiculturalism and espoused conspiracies about Muslims and “white genocide.” At issue in court was why he carried out the attack and his state of mind.
Prosecutors said Veltman planned the attack for months, outfitting his pickup with a grille guard, buying a bullet-resistant vest and scribbling notes about the speeds for killing pedestrians with a vehicle. His aim, they said, was to inspire others to carry out similar attacks and to send a “brutal message” to Muslims that if they didn’t leave Canada, they could be next.
Much of the prosecution’s case was built on Veltman’s own words. He told a 911 operator that he “did it on purpose.” In interviews with police, he called what he did a “terrorist attack” and repeated white nationalist conspiracies about Muslims.
Veltman’s attorneys asserted that the attack was not premeditated and that he should be convicted of a lesser charge. They said he suffered from mental illnesses and had consumed magic mushrooms 40 hours before the attack, leaving him in a “dreamlike” state.
Veltman testified that he had become isolated during the pandemic and spent hours consuming far-right content online, including videos of the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019. He said he traveled to Toronto a day before the attack in London because he knew it has a large Muslim population, but resisted “urges” to strike there.
Veltman testified that he fabricated what he told police because he felt a need to come up with a justification for his actions.
First-degree murder carries a minimum sentence of life imprisonment.