TORONTO – A Toronto police officer who has earned international acclaim for the peaceful arrest of a man accused in a deadly van attack does not want to be hailed as a hero.
Deputy police chief Peter Yuen said the officer, Const. Ken Lam, feels there are many first responders and members of the public who should be praised for their actions in the moments after a van mounted a sidewalk, killing 10 pedestrians and injuring 14.
“He wants to make sure that everyone understands he was not a hero, he was merely doing a job,” Yuen told a news conference on Wednesday.
Lam, who has been on the force for seven years, clearly exhibited and understood police training when he arrested 25-year-old Alek Minassian, the alleged driver of the van, the deputy chief added.
“That could have turned into a very tragic situation for more people — for the accused’s family and for officer Lam’s family, if (Lam) had opened fire,” he said.
Video footage of the interaction shows Lam talking to Minassian, who can be heard shouting, “Shoot me,” and “I have a gun in my pocket.”
“I don’t care, get down or you’ll get shot,” Lam is heard shouting back.
Lam, 42, is in “good spirits” and has been off duty since the incident, taking time to recuperate, Yuen said.
“Any time an officer goes through a traumatic experience … it is mandatory for the Toronto police service to have a debriefing and an aftercare program,” Yeun said.
The aftercare program will include a visit with a psychologist, he said.
“When you go through traumatic experiences there’s a cycle that you go through and … some people can rationalize this and digest this in three days, some it’s three months, some will be a lifetime. For officer Lam it will be day by day,” he added.
Yuen said he has been in “constant contact” with Lam since the arrest, even waking him up by text the last two mornings to ask how he is doing.
The deputy chief said he met Lam about five years ago through an internal support network for police officers of East Asian heritage.
Lam, who worked for several years as an engineer before becoming a police officer in his mid-30s, has made a name for himself among colleagues by spearheading charity campaigns or raising money for fellow officers in times of need, Yuen said.
“Anything that’s required, he’s there,” Yuen said. “You don’t even have to ask, he just happens to have a nose for (charity), he’ll show up and say, ‘I’ll help you.”‘
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version erroneously said 13 people were injured in the Toronto van attack.