Gunman Panics Canadian Capital, Killing Soldier in Rampage
By Ian Austen and Jeff Z. Klein
Oct. 22, 2014
OTTAWA — The normally bustling streets near Canada’s Parliament were transformed on Wednesday as thousands of government workers were kept inside their buildings for hours while police and military officers in combat gear swept the area, fearful that shootings that morning had been part of a larger plot.
Anxious workers pressed their faces against the windows of nearby offices, trying to figure out what had happened in a city so peaceful that pedestrians can usually walk unimpeded into the Parliament building before being checked by guards.
“I never thought this would happen,” said one woman, who refused to give her name as she hurried along a main street after the police allowed people in her building to evacuate the area in the afternoon. “This is Canada.”
The killing of a young guard at the National War Memorial on Wednesday, by a gunman who later continued shooting inside the nearby Parliament building, was only the fifth murder this year in Ottawa, a city of about 885,000 people. Mayor Jim Watson, who expressed sorrow for the loss of life, noted in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen, a daily newspaper, that the city is “still one of the safest cities in the world, not just in Canada.”
Witness Accounts of Ottawa Shootings
A sampling of video and witness accounts of the shootings in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Video by Caitlin Prentke on Publish Date October 22, 2014. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press.
On most mornings, the streets on Parliament Hill are filled with workers grabbing coffee and moving among the area’s many government offices. But for most of Wednesday, the streets were eerily silent, except for occasional bursts of intense police activity.
The police told businesses to shut down, and signs on shop windows said they were closed for the public’s protection. Some office workers, confused about how to proceed, clustered near the front doors of their buildings, hoping to get cellphone signals.
At one point in the afternoon, a line of about a dozen police officers in paramilitary gear, rifles at the ready, charged up Metcalfe Street, leaving the security perimeter to sweep the area in front of a Marriott hotel. Onlookers scrambled as the police shouted at them to stand aside. A pregnant woman who had fainted during the charge was helped into a coffee shop that had stayed open even as nearby stores closed.
“Whoever did this wants us to shut down, but people need us,” said the owner, Khoder Ibrahim.
“It was very frightening,” a government worker who identified herself only as Helen said of the more than four hours she had been kept in lockdown. “I’ve been worried about this happening here, especially after what happened to the two soldiers in Quebec,” who were struck by a car this week in what politicians suggested was a terrorist attack.
That fear continued throughout the day as it remained unclear if the police were searching for suspects besides the gunman, who was killed inside Parliament.
Even amid the anxiety, most people retained an air of politeness, which is often regarded as a national character trait.
“The thing I noticed was that the police were almost polite,” said Don Gravelle of Niagara Falls, Ontario, who was a block from the war memorial minutes after the first shooting. “They just moved us back, saying, ‘You’re in a dangerous area.’ ”
By nightfall, many people had left the area near Parliament after the police partly lifted the lockdown. But the lockdown was reinstated at least once later in the evening, and the police said that the situation was “evolving.”
A blackboard outside a shop on Elgin Street bore a handwritten message, “Stay strong, 613,” referring to the capital’s area code.
Patrick Snider, who works in Ottawa, said he feared the shootings would change the capital’s culture of openness. “I’ve always been kind of proud that you could just walk up to Canada’s Parliament buildings,” he said. “They’ve gotten a little more secure over the years, but I was always proud that we don’t have the same kind of security as in D.C. Now, it’ll be different.”
Gunman Panics Canadian Capital, Killing Soldier in Rampage
By Ian Austen and Rick Gladstone
Oct. 22, 2014
OTTAWA — The heart of the Canadian capital was thrown into panic and placed in lockdown on Wednesday after a gunman armed with a rifle or shotgun fatally wounded a corporal guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier at the National War Memorial, entered the nearby Parliament building and fired multiple times before he was shot and killed.
It was the second deadly assault on a uniformed member of Canada’s armed forces in three days. The Ottawa attack heightened fears that Canada, a strong ally of the United States in its campaign against the Islamic State militant group convulsing the Middle East, had been targeted in a reprisal, either as part of an organized plot or a lone-wolf assault by a radicalized Canadian.
Law enforcement authorities in Washington said their Canadian counterparts had identified the assailant as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who had changed his name from Michael Joseph Hall, and said he had been a convert to Islam. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said he had a criminal history of offenses that included robbery and drug possession.
Locations of Shootings in Ottawa
One or more gunmen opened fire at multiple locations in Ottawa on Wednesday.
War Memorial A gunman killed a Canadian Forces soldier who was guarding the National War Memorial.
Parliament Witnesses said the gunman who shot the soldier entered the House of Commons, firing multiple rounds.
Rideau Centre The Ottawa Police Service said that no shootings occurred near the Rideau Centre, reversing an earlier statement.
Satellite image by Google
Downtown Ottawa, ordinarily bustling on a workday, was both shut down and traumatized as police officers rushed to secure the Parliament building, move occupants to safety and hunt for what they initially said could be two or three assailants. The lockdown at Parliament dragged into the evening, when armed officers began herding people who had been confined all day into city buses, but the emergency was not lifted.
At a news conference, the Ottawa Police Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police declined to specify how many more gunmen, if any, they might be seeking, adding to the foreboding in the city, where anxiety ran so high that a National Hockey League game was postponed. The police told reporters that the situation was “dynamic and unfolding.”
The soldier died at a hospital, and the gunman was killed inside the Parliament building, Chief Charles Bordeleau of the Ottawa Police said. The soldier was identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a member of the army reserves from Hamilton, Ontario. Chief Bordeleau said that two people, whom he did not name, were injured, although not seriously.
The shootings came amid heightened concern among Canadians about terrorist attacks. Two days earlier, a radical jihadist ran over two soldiers at a strip mall in a city south of Montreal, killing one of them.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, an outspoken critic of the Islamic State movement and other militant groups, had been expected to introduce new antiterrorism legislation on Wednesday. “We will not be intimidated,” Mr. Harper said in a television address Wednesday night. He linked the attacks to radicalism inspired by the Islamic State and called them “despicable.”
As members of Parliament gathered for their weekly caucus meetings in the Parliament buildings on Wednesday morning, much of the city was looking forward to the hockey game here between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators. Then everything suddenly
At 9:52 a.m., calls flooded into Ottawa’s 911 system to report a shooting at the war memorial, which sits isolated southwest of Parliament Hill in a square ringed by busy roads. Television images showed passers-by trying to revive Corporal Cirillo before an ambulance arrived. His service rifle lay by his side.
Afterward, a video image taken from a dashboard camera and obtained by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation showed the gunman getting into a car behind the war memorial.
Although motor vehicles cannot drive onto Parliament Hill, a complex of three buildings surrounding a vast lawn used for national celebrations, without passing through a security inspection, there are numerous, unguarded pedestrian access points.
After dealing with reporters who had buttonholed members of Parliament as they entered their meetings, Greta K. Levy, the New Democratic Party’s caucus press secretary, and a colleague headed out to her office by way of the large, brass doors at the base of the Peace Tower that dominates the centre block of Parliament.
“We heard someone yelling ‘gun! gun!’ and we flattened ourselves down on the top of a step,” Ms. Levy said Wednesday evening. After it seemed nothing had occurred, Ms. Levy looked up to find herself staring at a man walking calmly and carrying a rifle or a shotgun aimed forward at his hips.
“He was clearly looking in our general direction — we were two or three feet away — I don’t know at what,” Ms. Levy said. “I didn’t notice anything in his eyes, nothing in his expression.”
Seconds after the gunman disappeared into the building, Ms. Levy said loud, prolonged gunfire broke out. A tourist crouched beside them, she said, bursting into tears and saying that her children were inside.
The three eventually fled across the lawn toward Royal Canadian Mounted Police cruisers.
Inside the building, the situation was confused. Numerous people told reporters that they had initially thought there might be a fire.
A video taken by a reporter for The Globe and Mail showed a number of House of Commons and Senate guards pursuing someone down Parliament’s marble-lined Hall of Honor toward the Library of Parliament, a separate building attached at the rear. Repeated shooting can be heard on its audio.
In a news conference following Wednesday’s shootings, Canadian officials described the attack and asked citizens to be vigilant. Video by AP on Publish Date October 22, 2014. Photo by Justin Tang/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press.
In the Conservative caucus room, which exits into the Hall of Honor, members of Parliament piled their large leather chairs against the door as a barricade.
Chrystia Freeland, a Liberal member of Parliament, said by phone that she had heard shots as she was heading to her caucus. Ms. Freeland said she had been among many lawmakers rushed to secure basement rooms when there seemed no way for them to leave the building. “I’m surrounded by more than a dozen House of Commons security guards,” she said.
Julie Van Dusen, a parliamentary reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, described a scene of confusion. Unable to leave the building, she pounded on office doors, she told a local C.B.C. Radio show, and the staff of a cabinet minister recognized her voice and let her in. They piled furniture against the door and lay on the floor as silently as possible for nearly five hours until heavily armed police officers arrived and took them to a secure part of the building.
Mr. Harper was whisked away in his motorcade.
There was no official account of how the gunman was shot. But Craig Scott, a member of Parliament, credited 58-year-old Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms and a man better known for carrying a ceremonial mace, with shooting the gunman just outside the party caucus rooms. In a Twitter posting, Mr. Scott said he and his colleagues “owe their safety, even lives,” to Mr. Vickers.
As the police locked down buildings and asked stores to close, an eerie still, broken only by screaming emergency sirens, descended on the district. Long after the drama on Parliament Hill seemed to be settled, groups of heavily armed officers ran through portions of downtown, checking out buildings. Some warned the few people on the streets, mainly journalists, that snipers were a possibility.
As thousands of workers were trapped in office towers and shops, gridlock developed as convoys carrying heavily armed officers poured into the area. A large ambulance, designed for a disaster like an airplane crash, set up operation.
The easy access to the grounds of Parliament Hill reflected the general Canadian view that an attack was unlikely. Mr. Harper and other members of his cabinet, however, have frequently warned that terrorist attacks might come to Canada.
On Twitter, followers of the Islamic State praised the attack — and warned of more to follow.
In an audio message last month, the Islamic State’s spokesman, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, exhorted sympathizers to carry out revenge killings and included Canadians on the list of target nationalities.
“If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be,” Mr. Adnani said.
Ian Austen reported from Ottawa, and Rick Gladstone from New York. Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Patrick J. Lyons, Rukmini Callimachi and Susan C. Beachy from New York, Jeff Z. Klein from Ottawa, and Michael S. Schmidt, Eric Schmitt and Peter Baker from Washington.