A 22-year-old Chinese international student has been missing since Saturday night after what police say appears to be a violent “armed kidnapping” in Markham, Ont.
Wanzhen Lu and a female friend had just gotten out of their vehicle in an underground parking garage at a condo building in the city north of Toronto when a van pulled up behind them.
Lu was forced into the van by three men, “100 per cent against his will” after he was shocked a number of times with a stun gun, according to Const. Andy Pattenden of York Regional Police. Lu has not been heard from since. The friend was not injured, but reportedly traumatized by what she saw and has been helping police in the investigation.
Family members are on their way to the Greater Toronto Area because they are concerned about his disappearance, Pattenden said Monday.
“I’m sure they are very concerned about the well-being of their family member here who has been taken,” he said.
Here’s what we know and don’t know about the case:
What we know
Lu was returning with his friend to his condo at 15 Water Walk Dr., in the area of Highway 7 and Birchmount Road, shortly before 6 p.m. ET on Saturday when the van appeared behind them. Pattenden has said Lu and his friend may have been walking towards the elevators of the garage.
Three men, with hoods pulled tightly around their faces, got out of a black Dodge Caravan in the garage. Pattenden has said it’s believed the van was already in the garage when Lu and his friend appeared.
One man, armed with a conductive energy weapon commonly called a Taser, ran up to Lu.
There was a struggle, Lu resisted and the man shocked him a number of times with the Taser. Police will not say how many times. Lu was “dragged” into the van. Police will not comment on the extent of his injuries.
The van sped off in an unknown direction. It had no front licence plate. The back plate, which police say is stolen, is CEAR350. The van is wheelchair accessible and has stickers indicating its accessibility. Police described it as having “unique markings.”
Police are focused on finding the van, but say members of the public should not fixate on the stolen licence plate because it could have been discarded by now. The look of the van is what is important, they said.
Officers from York police’s major crimes bureau have interviewed witnesses in the building and canvassed the area for surveillance camera video. Video was obtained from the garage itself.
Police have released images of the three men who got out of the van and descriptions of all four suspects including the driver. They have also released a description and two images of the van itself.
Lu, an East Asian male, was said to be wearing glasses, a black hoodie, black jeans and white running shoes when he was abducted.
Police said they are working with the Chinese Consulate in Toronto on the case.
In a statement to CBC Toronto on Sunday, Consul Jinxuan Zhang said the consulate is maintaining close contact and communication with the police, and it has contacted Lu’s parents.
“The case is still under investigation. We have no more information,” the statement says.
A local resident said the garage is said to be three levels and serves two buildings in the condo complex.
What we don’t know
Police have said they don’t know the motive.
They have not said whether a ransom has been demanded or whether those behind the abduction have made contact with Lu’s family.
Police have also not said whether it was or wasn’t a targeted incident.
They have not said which school Lu is attending, how long he has been in Canada or where he is from in China. They have released no information about his parents.
Police have also not said whether Lu’s disappearance is connected in any way with a ransom scam in which fraudsters have tried to get money from the families of young, vulnerable international students from China who are living in Canada — a scam that has targeted students in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Calgary.
“At this point in time, our investigators have not provided us with any other information linking it to any other cases that they may be aware of. They are treating this as a unique situation,” Pattenden said Monday.
In 2017, at least three Chinese international students in the Toronto area fell victim to the ransom scam, which captured attention across the country.
When pressed, Pattenden said Lu’s capture was a violent, physical incident.
“Based on what I’ve seen in the video, our victim here did not appear to want to go in that van. He was doing everything he could to resist going with these people that took him.”