Warning: This story contains distressing details.
In the hours after his truck attack on a Muslim family in London, Ont., the accused killer told police his anger at minority groups began with online research about politics and Donald Trump’s election for U.S. president, and spiralled down a “rabbit hole” that led to anger and rage he could no longer ignore.
On Friday, the end of the first week of proceedings, the jury at Nathaniel Veltman’s murder-terror trial in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor watched video footage of his statement to police a few hours after the attack on the Afzaal family. Five family members were struck by the accused’s pickup truck while out for a late-evening stroll on June 6, 2021.
“I admit it was terrorism. It was terrorism — I admit it. I’m not going to try to get a lighter sentence that it was just murder,” the accused told Det. Micah Bourdeau just after 2 a.m. ET, more than five hours after the attack, according to the video evidence.
The 22-year-old is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terror charges. He has pleaded not guilty.
“I was a ticking bomb, ready to go off. It could only go on for so long before I did something,” he told Bourdeau.
Yumnah Afzaal, 15, her parents, Madiha Salman, 44, and Salman Afzaal, 46, and family matriarch Talat Afzaal, 74, were killed. A boy who was nine years old at the time survived.
Prosecutors allege they were targeted because they were wearing traditional Pakistani clothing and were Muslim.
At the time of his arrest, the accused was wearing a white T-shirt with a large black cross drawn or painted on the front and back. He told the detective it was a “meme or joke” that is “meant to look like a crusader shirt.” Asked by the detective to explain the joke, the accused said, “Maybe later.”
Accused’s thoughts before the attack
The accused told Bourdeau he began getting interested in politics when he turned 18 and started following the 2016 presidential election.
“That’s when I noticed that the media is super dishonest and from that point on, straight down the rabbit hole I went,” the accused said. His “research” brought him to stories about crimes committed against white people by minority groups that he believed were covered up.
He described how he became fixated on a debunked conspiracy theory involving Muslims and the sexual assaults of young girls.
“In all honestly, I would blame the Western governments for what happened. You can say, ‘It’s your fault, Nate, you chose to commit violence.’ But they never left me any choice… I feel sick to my stomach after what I did, but they leave me no choice.”
Before he left his apartment that evening, he looked up information about European white nationalist committing a crime against Muslims as “motivation,” he said.
“When people like me do something like this, it inspires other angry white men to do the same thing. I would never have done something like this if it wasn’t for others that did similar things.”
Veltman said he blamed “Western governments” that have taken away his right to express the views he holds against minorities and to peacefully protest, forcing him to commit violence. “They make it so there is no other outcome other than violence,” he said in the interview captured on video.
The day before the attack, the accused said, he was depressed and took psilocybin (drugs known as shrooms or magic mushrooms), then felt unwell on Sunday, but went to work at an egg farm in Strathroy anyway. On his drive home to downtown London, he passed a group of Muslims and decided that it was time to act.
“I thought, ‘Maybe now is the time to send my message.'”
It was a message he had been planning for three months, the accused told the detective. He also said he wasn’t affiliated with any particular far-right group, calling his actions a “lone-wolf attack.”
He said he knew the Azaal family members were Muslim “because of their clothes.” He knew there were children among those he hit, but his attack “had to be brutal” to send a “strong message,” the accused said.
That interview ends shortly before 4 a.m. so the accused can get some sleep and then breakfast. It resumes just before 10 a.m., when the accused appears groggier and less willing to share information with Bourdeau.
“I think I’m in shock. I don’t know if I can explain it,” he said. “I’m trying to collect myself. I’m not sure I can say much more than that right now.”
Veltman refused to tell the detective whether he bought the pickup truck used in the attack specifically for that purpose, or why he went to Hyde Park in the area of the attack that evening.
The agreed facts
Earlier in the trial, which started with jury selection last week and officially began proceedings Monday, the Crown and defence attorneys agreed on a number of facts that won’t be argued. They include that the accused drove the black Dodge Ram pickup truck into the Afzaal family, striking all five members.
Data from the truck shows he steered toward the family five seconds before impact and his accelerator pedal was 100 per cent compressed.
After the crash, he drove erratically toward Cherryhill Mall, where he pulled into the parking lot and approached a cab driver waiting for calls, court has heard. Police arrested Veltman in the parking lot of the mall.
The trial, which is expected to last eight weeks, continues Monday.