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Why London police have not released a photo of man accused of killing 4 family members

Last Updated Jun 10, 2021 at 12:21 pm EDT

London Police investigate the scene of a car crash in London, Ontario on Monday, June 7, 2021. Police in London, Ont., say four people have died after several pedestrians were struck by a car Sunday night. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Robins

Nathaniel Veltman, 20, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder in the tragic killing of a Muslim family.

The victims were struck and killed in a hit-and-run in London, Ontario in what police allege was a premeditated, intentional hate crime on Sunday evening.

The victims have been identified as Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna Afzaal and Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother.

The Salman family’s youngest child, nine-year-old Fayez was seriously injured but is expected to survive.

A select few news outlets and social media accounts have chosen to share a photo of Veltman participating in what looks like a marathon, igniting discussion on what photos are appropriate to share of someone who has allegedly committed such a heinous act, if any at all.

It has left some questioning why police have not shared a mugshot of the 20-year-old from London.

Others are adamant there should be no sharing of a photo of him at all as to not give him any notoriety for his alleged actions, something that many terrorists seek when coming these crimes.

“Due to the fact that there is no risk to public safety as the accused remains in custody – we have not released a photo,” wrote Media Relations Officer Sandasha Bough in an email to CityNews.

This statement was reiterated on Wednesday by Chief Steve Williams of the London Police Service when asked directly in our one-on-one interview.

It’s an approach that other police departments in Ontario have taken in the past in comparison to our American counterparts.

For example, convicted serial killer Bruce McArthur was arrested in 2018 on first-degree murder charges and in the weeks following, the only images being shared of the murderer were from his Facebook page.

Toronto Police confirmed that they did not release his mugshot because it would not “further the investigation.”

RELATED: Why haven’t police released a mug shot of Bruce McArthur?

During that time, CityNews received multiple inquiries questioning the images being used by the media of McArthur.

Images of him dressed in a Santa suit or on vacation were used, reflective of the one now circulating of Veltman.

Many have identified the stark difference in how other alleged criminals, mostly people of colour, are depicted in the media in a much more different light. The images used are commonly mugshots.

But without an official photo from police, the photos available and used of the accused are frequently taken from social media.

While police have stated that they will release a photo if they believe there is a threat to public safety or believe it will further their investigation, criminal lawyer Jason Bogle believes that police aren’t consistent with this statement.

“A lot of the time, people of colour, when they go up for these types of matters, they will find their pictures inside the news for bail matters,” Bogle said in an interview with CityNews. “Because they are saying ‘Hey, by the way, this is the person on the run or this is the person we caught for this particular crime, even though they are not looking for information to further their investigation.”

Bogle also points out that there is an investigative value in sharing an image of Veltman to the public, suggesting that his image could potentially provide further information to his history.

“There could be a value in releasing the picture in terms of trying to acquire additional information that may not have been readily accessible because nobody knew who it was that they were talking about,” said Bogle. “Subject to having a confession, therefore, I would see the utility in trying to find out if the public has had experience with this type of person before.

“Trying to not give an opportunity for the general public to weigh in or give further information might be a folly of the London police,” Bogle added.

He states that this is one of those situations where the whole public is crying for answers and the police may not have all the information.