The suspected gunman who opened fire and fatally shot a soldier in Ottawa on Wednesday might have held dual-citizenship in Canada and Libya, officials said Thursday during an afternoon press briefing.
Michael Joseph Hall, 32, who had been using the name Michael Zehaf-Bibeau , was born in Montreal, lived in Calgary, and resided most recently in Vancouver, said Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson. Just before 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Zehaf-Bibeau allegedly fatally shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo near the National War Memorial before opening fire in the Parliament building.
Authorities said Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau was armed with a legal 30 caliber hunting rifle and entered Parliament through a staff door with no metal detectors. Although the entrance was guarded from the inside by officers from the House of Commons, the suspect ran through before he could be stopped.
The suspect had been in Canada’s capital since at least Oct. 2 ”to deal with a passport issue and that he was also hoping to leave for Syria,” Paulson said. ”According to some accounts, he was an individual who may have held extremist beliefs.”
Zehaf-Bibeau , a convert to Islam, recently applied for a passport, but remained a subject of investigation into the approval of the legal document.
Downtown Ottawa was rocked by gun violence Wednesday during an occurrence that has been relatively uncommon in Canada. The shooting came just two days after Martin Rouleau, a recent convert to Islam who is suspected to have been influenced by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), drove over two Canadian soldiers, killing one. The following day, Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level, citing increased chatter by extremist Islamist groups.
Investigators haven’t found a connection between this week’s perpetrators nor their acts, Paulson said.
As Canadian lawmakers returned to work Thursday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the country “will never yield to terrorism.”
“We will be vigilant, but we will not run scared. We will be prudent, but we will not panic,” Harper said Thursday morning, receiving a standing ovation from other members of Parliament inside the government’s chambers.
“Let’s not be driven by fear because in Canada, love always chimes over hate,” Thomas Mulcair, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, said following Harper’s comments.
But, in the afternoon press conference on Thursday, Ottawa Police Service Chief Charles Bordeleau encouraged Canadians to “continue to remain vigilant to the realities that we face,” and urged them to report any suspicious activity. The increased police presence that was implemented after the shooting will continue in the foreseeable future, he said.
Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, 58, killed Hall inside the government building, but chaos ensued in downtown Ottawa as law enforcement officials searched the area throughout the day for other possible shooters. They remained tight-lipped about whether additional suspects remained at-large. But they eventually lifted the safety perimeter late Wednesday after they found no continued threat to public safety.
Lawmakers gave Vickers an extended standing ovation in the parliamentary chambers on Thursday morning.
“I am very touched by the attention directed at me following yesterday’s events. However, I have the support of a remarkable security team that is committed to ensuring the safety of members, employees, and visitors to the Hill,” Vickers said in a statement.
Cpl. Cirillo was one of four victims transported to Ottawa Hospital’s Civic Campus after the shooting. The three other patients suffered minor, non-life threatening injuries, and were later released from the hospital.
The suspect’s parents responded to an emailed request by The Associated Press asking about reports that their son was mentally unstable or otherwise vulnerable. His mother, Susan Bibeau, said she had little insight to offer because she had seen him last week for the first time in more than five years.
“We are so sad that a man lost his life. He has lost everything and he leaves behind a family that must feel nothing but pain and sorrow. We send our deepest condolences to them although words seem pretty useless,” Bibeau wrote on behalf of her and her husband, Bulgasem Zehaf.
“We also wish to apologize for all the pain, fright, and chaos he created. We have no explanation to offer,” she added.
Officials didn’t link the incident to terrorism. But in an address Wednesday night, Harper vowed to “strengthen our resolve and redouble our efforts” to identify and counter terror threats against Canada. The country, he added, will “work with our allies around the world and fight against the terrorist organizations who brutalize those in other countries with the hope of bringing their savagery to our shores.”
On Thursday morning, Harper placed a wreath at the war memorial, where residents gathered and broke out in an impromptu rendition of the country’s national anthem, “O Canada.” The area remained blocked off to the public, but Bordeleau said he expected it to reopen soon.
Parliament was on lockdown for most of the previous day as police searched downtown Ottawa. Harper was inside the building at the time of the shooting, but was promptly moved to safety.
Canada this week sent warplanes to assist the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS in the Middle East. President Barack Obama offered his assistance to Canada, but security at U.S. government buildings continued as previously scheduled, the White House confirmed on Thursday afternoon.
Benjamin Landy contributed to this report.