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Former Hong Kong police officer tells of pride in son Ken Lam, the hero who captured suspect in Toronto van rampage that killed 10

‘My son called me and told me, ‘Daddy, everything is fine, I arrested the suspect … I didn’t even fire any shots’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 3:17pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2018, 11:13am

A heroic Canadian police officer hailed for the restraint and professionalism he showed in arresting the suspect in the Toronto van attack without firing a single shot has been identified as Constable Ken Lam, son of a former Hong Kong police officer.

“I’m happy he was safe. I’m proud of him, to do a good job. Well done,” said Hong Kong immigrant father David Lam, in an interview with Canadian television network Global.

On Monday afternoon, a white van ploughed into pedestrians along one of Toronto’s busiest streets, killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others in what one official described as “pure carnage”.

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Soon after, the alleged driver of the van was arrested by a lone police officer, since identified as Ken Lam, in a confrontation lasting less than a minute and caught on video by bystanders. “Get down,” the officer shouts repeatedly.

“Kill me,” the man tells the police officer. “I have a gun in my pocket.”

Lam’s voice remains calm as he again orders the man to get down, warning that he will shoot if the man does not cooperate. 

“Shoot me in the head,” the suspect replies.

The officer then begins advancing towards the suspect. The suspect steps backwards, dropping what he was holding and raising his hands in the air. The officer proceeded to single-handedly arrest the suspect.

He was more concerned about the victims. He was devastated when we kept hearing the casualties going up, as we all were. It was a horrific scene
Mike McCormack, of the Toronto Police Association

Video of the dramatic confrontation between the suspect and Lam was hailed on social media.

Many said he deserved a medal. A columnist for Maclean’s magazine contrasted the officer’s calm demeanour with the chaos and horror that had unfolded minutes earlier. 

“I am paid to explain things and sound confident doing so,” he wrote. “But I honestly don’t know what to make of this terrifying, remarkable moment.”

David Lam, who now runs a restaurant in Markham, Ontario, told Global: “My son called me [and] told me, ‘Daddy, everything is fine. I arrested the suspect … I didn’t even fire any shots’.

“I said, ‘You did a good job.’”

Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, said Lam, who has been with the force for more than seven years, would have been justified if he decided to fire at the suspect. 

“He was constantly assessing, constantly watching what was going on and determined he could handle it the way that he did,” he said. “People are right: this guy is a hero.”

He had spoken to the officer, who was left shaken. “It’s stressful enough when you’re confronting somebody who is trying to get you to kill them,” McCormack said. “And then you add the layer that this person that you’re dealing with has just murdered 10 innocent people, injured another 15. It really is sinking in with him right now.”

Mark Saunders, the city’s police chief, credited the force’s high calibre of training. 

“The officer did a fantastic job with respect to utilising his ability of understanding the circumstance and environment and having a peaceful resolution at the end of the day,” he said.

The arrest came as police forces across North America – including in Toronto – have been criticised for using excessive force to subdue mentally ill or unarmed suspects.

Police identified Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old from the nearby town of Richmond Hill, as the man who had been arrested. He appeared in court on Tuesday, charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.

As commendations poured in from the around the world, Lam’s focus was on the many residents affected by the attack. “He was more concerned about the victims. He was devastated when we kept hearing the casualties going up, as we all were. It was a horrific scene,” McCormack said. 

“He said ‘Mike, I followed my experience and my training. OK I made this arrest, which is great, but I’m just doing my job’.”

Additional reporting by Ian Young