Canada admits Parliament shooter was known to police

The Canadian police acknowledged on Thursday that the gunman who traumatized the capital in a deadly shooting rampage had not been identified as a security threat despite his criminal record in three cities, embrace of extremist ideas and intent to travel to Syria. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/world/americas/ottawa-canada-parliament-attack.html?ref=world&_r=0
The police also conceded that they did not even know that the gunman, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, had been in the capital for nearly three weeks.
The revelations at a news conference came a day after the gunman paralyzed the heart of the capital, killing a soldier at a war memorial before he was shot dead in the halls of Parliament.
The new detailed information helped fill in vast gaps about Mr. Zehaf- Bibeau’s surprise assault, including chilling video footage of his arrival on Parliament Hill.
Commissioner Bob Paulson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said the gunman’s motives remained largely unknown, but the commissioner said he was confident that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had acted alone and had no strong ties to other extremists.
The commissioner, the head of Canada’s national police, said that much remained a mystery about the shooting frenzy that led to Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s death, trapped thousands of people in downtown Ottawa and, at one point, left Prime Minister Stephen Harper without bodyguards and separated only by a wooden door from a gunfight.
“The R.C.M.P. did not even know Mr. Zehaf was in Ottawa,” Commissioner Paulson said during the lengthy news conference. “We need to look at all operations to deal with this difficult and hard-to-understand threat.” The police, he said, had only learned about Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s Syrian travel
plans from his mother after his death. Nor was he among the 93 people that the national police forces monitor as being likely to travel abroad to join organizations recognized as terror groups under Canadian law.
He moved into the Ottawa Mission, a homeless shelter less than a 10-minute walk from the National War Memorial, where Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau would shoot and kill Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, the single father of a young child from Hamilton, Ontario.
About two days before the attack, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was a fixture in the shelter’s main sitting room, having loud conversations on a pay phone, his frustration appearing to mount as he made call after call looking for an inexpensive “junker” car, said Paul MacIntyre, 52, a resident who overheard him.
“Anybody living in a rooming house who has 600 to 700 bucks to blow on a junker,” seems out of place, he said. “With that you could get a bus ticket all the way across the country.”
A striking figure, with black curls to his shoulders, a small mustache and goatee, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was frequently seen prostrate on a small prayer mat he kept for praying in the stairwells, said another resident, David Duchesne, 50.
On Tuesday, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau found his junker — an aging, beige Toyota Corolla. Shortly before 9:50 a.m. the following morning, he illegally and conspicuously parked it behind the war memorial on the busy thoroughfare and transit route that also runs in front of Parliament, Commissioner Paulson said.
Approaching from behind, outside Corporal Cirillo’s vision, he shot him at close range with a Winchester rifle, a firearm his criminal conviction had prohibited him from owning. He also shot at but missed a second ceremonial guard, who has not been identified. As the driver for Canada’s top military commander, who was waiting outside
Mr. Harper’s office across the street, attempted to give chase on foot, Mr. Zehaf- Bibeau jumped into the Toyota, made a U-turn and headed toward an entrance to Parliament Hill that has bollards to limit entry only to pedestrians. Surveillance video footage, taken from multiple angles, shows pedestrians initially hiding behind the entrance’s Gothic Revival stone entrance posts as they hear the gunfire at the war memorial and then scattering when Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau jumps out of the Toyota with his rifle.
Other cameras show him running up to the entrance of the east block, one of the three structures making up the Parliament Buildings.
Waving his weapon, the gunman then menaced the driver of an empty cabinet-minister’s car, who ran away. The gunman got in and, with the driver’s door still open, raced up to the center block with its distinctive clock tower.
As he ran into its main door at the base of the Peace Tower, police cruisers were in pursuit. Inside, the shooting began immediately. But 10 seconds elapsed before the first of the chasing officers reached the door.
“It only took one minute and 20 seconds for this individual to go from Wellington to center block,” Commissioner Paulson said. “It was incredibly quick.”
The investigation into exactly what happened inside, Commissioner Paulson said, was incomplete. But he did describe a gun battle between Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms at the House of Commons, and the gunman, with each taking shelter behind stone pillars.
The head of the national police force indirectly acknowledged reports that Mr. Harper’s bodyguards, members of the mounted police, were not in his party’s caucus room as the gun battle raged immediately outside. He said that the policy had now been changed to have protection always present.
The drama and anxiety stretched on for hours after Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was killed outside the entrance to the Parliament’s library as the police continued to hunt for other possible assailants.
The lockdown included a room by room search of the Parliament buildings as well as of nearby office buildings. Thousands of workers were ordered away from windows and many squeezed into windowless meeting rooms in their office after being locked in their buildings. Many members of Parliament were not released from secure areas in the main Parliament building until nearly 10 hours had passed.
Chief Charles Bordeleau of the Ottawa Police Service said the prolonged search had been provoked by 911 calls indicating that there had been a shooting and carjacking at a downtown shopping mall and that an armed man was hiding on the ornate copper-clad roof of the center block.
Mr. Harper has blamed radicalism inspired by the Islamic State for the assault. The group is the target of an American-led aerial campaign in Iraq and Syria.
The shooting came only two days after another deadly assault on a uniformed member of Canada’s armed forces, deepening worries that the attacks could be linked to Canada’s supporting role in the campaign against the Islamic State. This week, Canada sent six fighter jets to attack Islamic State targets in Iraq following a request for assistance from the United States.
Mr. Harper strongly supports the campaign against the Islamic State, the Sunni militant group also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“We will not be intimidated,” Mr. Harper said when Parliament resumed on Thursday to punctuate its determination to resume normality. “We will be vigilant but we will not run scared. We will be prudent but we will not panic.”
Mr. Vickers had put away his pistol and was back in his robes performing the more familiar role of parading a ceremonial mace.
As he made his way along Parliament’s Hall of Honor, where the gunman was killed, Mr. Vickers passed by walls damaged by bullets.
Parliament broke with protocol and allowed television stations to show the entry of the mace into the House of Commons. Members rose in a prolonged standing ovation for Mr. Vickers that, at times, seemed to put him on the verge of tears.
Mr. Harper walked down the chamber to shake hands with Mr. Vickers. Normally partisan and rarely given to public gestures of warmth, Mr. Harper also embraced and shook hands with Tom Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, the leaders of the two main opposition parties.
The prime minister and his wife, Laureen, also laid a wreath at the National War Memorial.
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau, whose parents had changed his name from Michael Joseph Hall when he was a teenager, was originally from the Montreal suburb of Laval. Police said that his father is Libyan and that Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau may also hold citizenship in that country. In recent years, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau lived in Vancouver and its suburbs and he was previously a resident of Calgary, Alberta. He had several, mostly petty drug-related, criminal convictions in all three cities.
But Commissioner Paulson said that there were no apparent links between him a group of radical Islamists in Calgary. At the moment, he said Mr. Zehaf- Bibeau’s only tie to other radicals was that his email address was found on the hard drive of an unidentified man who has been arrested on suspicion of a terrorism-related offense. “What does that mean?” the commissioner asked, acknowledging that it was a weak connection.
Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s parents said in a statement on Thursday that they were shocked by his actions and saddened by the corporal’s death. “He has lost everything and he leaves behind a family that must feel nothing but pain and sorrow,” the parents, Susan Bibeau and Bulgasem Zehaf, said of the soldier in a statement given to The Associated Press. “We send our deepest condolences to them although words seem pretty useless.”

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