Who were Nathaniel Veltman's victims? Friends remember 'model family' who were 'out for walk'
Their extended family issued a statement identifying the dead as Salman Afzal, 46; his wife Madiha, 44; their daughter Yumna, 15, and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld
A driver plowed a pickup truck into a family of five, killing four of them and seriously injuring the other in a deliberate attack that targeted the victims because of their Muslim faith, Canadian police said on Monday, June 7.
Police Authorities have said that Nathaniel Veltman, 20, was arrested in the parking lot of a nearby mall after the incident, that took place on Sunday, June 6, night in the Ontario city of London. Police said a black pickup truck mounted a barrier and struck the victims at an intersection, killing 4 of the 5 family members. Veltman is in custody and is facing four counts of first-degree murder. Police said Veltman, a resident of London, did not know the victims.
The extended family issued a statement identifying the dead as Salman Afzal, 46; his wife Madiha, 44; their daughter Yumna, 15, and a 74-year-old grandmother whose name was withheld. A hospitalized boy was identified as Fayez, 9. “We believe the victims were targeted because of their Islamic faith,” London Police Chief Stephen Williams said. “We understand that this event may cause fear and anxiety in the community, particularly in the Muslim community, in any community targeted by hate ... There is no tolerance in this community who are motivated by hate target others with violence.”
“Everyone who knew Salman and the rest of the Afzal family knows the model family they were as Muslims, Canadians and Pakistanis,” the statement said. “They worked extremely hard in their fields and excelled. Their children were top students in their school and connected strongly with spiritual their identity.”
Zahid Khan, a family friend, said that the family left Pakistan 14 years ago and were dedicated, decent and generous members of the London Muslim Mosque, he said. “They were just out for their walk that they would go out for every day,” Khan said through tears near the site of the crash. “I just wanted to see.”
Qazi Khalil said he saw the family on Thursday, June 3 when they were out for a night walk. Khalil said that his family used to live close to theirs and would get together on holidays. “This has totally destroyed me from the inside,” Khalil said. “I can’t really come to the terms they were no longer here."
On Tuesday, June 8, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted: "Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophobia needs to be countered holistically by the international community."
Saddened to learn of the killing of a Muslim Pakistani-origin Canadian family in London, Ontario. This condemnable act of terrorism reveals the growing Islamophobia in Western countries. Islamophonia needs to be countered holistically by the international community.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) June 8, 2021
A GoFundMe page was created for the sole survivor of the family, Fayez. The description of the fundraiser reads: "All family members, aside from 9-year-old Fayez, have since passed away. Fayez is in stable condition but remains in the hospital. This attack has been confirmed by the London Police to a be premeditated hate crime against muslims, the perpetrator has been arrested and has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder." It further states: "The London community is heartbroken in the wake of this devastating loss and act of hate. Mr. Salman Afzaal (46) was a physiotherapist and beloved member of the London community - whether at his local cricket matches or at the Masjid, the first thing to greet you would be his gentle and welcoming smile. His wife, Mrs. Madiha Salman (44) was in the process of working towards finishing her exams to obtain her Ph.D. at Western University in Civil engineering; she was a brilliant scholar and a caring mother and friend. Yumna Salman (15), their daughter, a loving friend to many, was finishing up her grade 9 year at Oakridge Secondary School. Accompanying the family, was Yumna and Fayez’s grandmother (74), mother of Mr. Afzaal, who was a pillar of their family that cherished their daily walks. The family is survived by Fayez Salman (9) who is currently in the hospital and being supported by his extended family."
Asking for donations, it further read: "We understand that there is little we can do to ease the grief and trauma that Fayez and his extended family are going through, but we started this gofundme campaign to raise money so that the family can donate on behalf of the deceased. The family has indicated that they do not need financial assistance at the time however, if you would like to help and donate the money will be used as Sadaqa-Jariya on behalf of the deceased. Sadaqa jariya is an important concept within Islam - it is a gift that not only benefits others in this life but also benefits us and our loved ones in the next."
Talking about the Islamophobia that took the life of 4 family members, Sana Yasir, who organized the fundraiser further wrote: "The horrific nature of the crimes perpetrated against the Salman family serve as a reminder of the long shadow of Islamophobia that is cast on the lives of peaceful Muslim families across the world. This gofundme campaign is one of many ways the Pakistani community in London can support each other in the face of the hatred our community has undeservedly received in this instance and countless others. Ya Allah have mercy on this family and give sabr to Fayez and those who are affected by this horrible tragedy." The fundraiser has raised $251,936 of the total $300,000 goal.