Warning: This story contains disturbing details:
The man arrested in the killing of a Muslim family in London on June 6, 2021, was “happy” and “appeared giddy,” one of the first police officers to interact with the accused testified Friday in Ontario Superior Court in Windsor.
Det. Const. Matthew Hietkamp, who was in the witness box as the murder and terrorism trial of Nathaniel Veltman wrapped up its second week, spoke about the demeanour of the accused when he saw him just after his arrest.
“When I got there, he was happy, smiling, looking around. He appeared giddy — that’s what I saw,” said Hietkamp, adding the 22-year-old also appeared “like he had some good news.”
Hietkamp said that as Veltman was being taken by police cruiser to London police headquarters from the Cherryhill Mall parking lot where he was arrested, he was trying to make eye contact with people stopped at red lights in cars beside him.
Minutes earlier, five members of the Afzaal family were out for an evening walk when they were struck and killed by a black pickup truck driven by the accused, which is one of the agreed statements of fact the defence is not disputing.
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.
The accused is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder, as well as associated terrorism charges. Crown prosecutors allege he was motivated by far-right ideology. In testimony heard earlier in the trial, the accused told police he was angry about “minority on white” crime and was targeting Muslims the night the Afzaals were attacked.
Hietkamp, who was dispatched to the mall parking lot where the accused was found, was the latest in a series of London officers to testify.
Hietkamp said he drove behind the officer who transported the accused to downtown police headquarters and searched him before he was seen by the booking sergeant.
“He [Veltman] was wearing a white T-shift with a cross spray painted on it, construction-style jeans and steel-toed boots.”
The boots were taken away because they could be used as a weapon, the officer added.
Earlier in the day, court heard from Const. Patti Leavoy-Costa, who arrived at Cherryhill Mall shortly before Hietkamp. She described the accused as tense and “kind of bouncing and moving around.”
“He was causing a scene, so to speak,” she added, saying the accused was yelling at no one in particular.
Leavoy-Costa noted the extensive front-end damage to the accused’s black Dodge Ram pickup truck, which was steaming and smoking in the parking lot.
“What caught my attention was a piece of fabric that was wedged in the hood,” she said.
The trial, which is expected to last eight weeks, was moved to Windsor well before proceedings began Sept. 11.
It continues Monday.