Alek Minassian, the Toronto van attack suspect, is believed to have posted on Facebook praising “incel” killer Elliot Rodger only minutes before 10 people were mown down and killed in the Canadian city on Monday.
Referencing the misogynistic “involuntary celibacy” online community, the post called Rodger “the supreme gentleman” and continued: “The incel rebellion has already begun!”
In 2014 Rodger, 22, killed six people and injured 13 in California, having raged online at women for rejecting him, also using the term “incel”, before taking his own life.
Last autumn, Reddit banned the r/incels sub-forum for violating its policy on violent content. In the group, which had some 40,000 subscribers, users posted about women who rejected them sexually.
Similar communities exist on 4chan and elsewhere online.
Acknowledging Mr Minassian’s “cryptic” post, Toronto police said the question of whether his alleged actions were driven by anger against women would be “part of our investigation”.
“All the lanes are open with this investigation,” police chief Mark Saunders said.
“The accused is alleged to have posted a cryptic message on Facebook minutes before” the incident, Detective Sergeant Graham Gibson told reporters on Tuesday. Most victims were women, ranging in age from their mid-20s to early 80s, he added.
Facebook has since deleted Mr Minassian’s account, a representative said, but the company confirmed that the post had appeared on an account belonging to the suspect.
The 25-year-old, from the Richmond Hill suburb of the city, has been charged with 10 counts of murder and 13 of attempted murder. He appeared in court on Tuesday and said little except to confirm that he understood the proceedings.
Mr Minassian attended Thornlea Secondary School in Richmond Hill, graduating in 2011, according to school officials, and a LinkedIn profile in his name listed him a student at Seneca College from 2011 to this year.
Briefly, between August and October 2017, he was a member of the Canadian armed forces (CAF). National Defence spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said: “He did not complete his recruit training and requested to be voluntarily released from the CAF after 16 days of recruit training.”
A fellow Seneca student told the Toronto Star he attended a computer programming lesson with Mr Minassian. Joseph Pham described him as “socially awkward” and someone who “didn’t really talk to anyone”.
Toronto van attack: in pictures
The New York Times quoted a former high school classmate as saying Mr Minassian was “a loner and had few friends”. He was isolated and others made fun of him in private, Ari Blaff told the paper.
He added: “He had several tics and would sometimes grab the top of his shirt and spit on it, meow in the hallways and say, ‘I am afraid of girls’. It was like a mantra.”
Another student told the Times Mr Minassian had difficulty communicating and was worried that women could hurt him.
Mr Minassian’s apparent involvement in the “incel” community recalled the 1989 massacre at Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique, in which 25-year-old Marc Lepine murdered 14 women before turning his gun on himself. In a note, he blamed feminists for ruining his life.
Police are yet to reveal a motive behind Monday’s events, and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said: “Obviously all Canadians continue and will continue to have questions about why this happened, what could possibly be the motive behind it.”
Mr Trudeau ruled out terrorism, however, adding on Tuesday that the incident “hasn’t changed the overall threat level in Canada,” though it occurred as cabinet ministers from the G7 countries were meeting in Toronto.
Additional reporting by agencies