Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, identified as the gunman in Wednesday’s shootings on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill, had significant ties to British Columbia, and had recently been living and working in Metro Vancouver.
Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, had worked briefly for a Burnaby irrigation company a couple of years ago, according to CBC News. The business owner also said his own son had converted to Islam about seven years ago, and socialized with Zehaf-Bibeau at Burnaby’s Masjid Al-Salaam Mosque.
Dave Bathurst told the Globe and Mail he had been with Zehaf-Bibeau at the mosque in Burnaby for prayers as recently as six weeks ago. Bathurst claims “his friend did not at first appear to have extremist views or inclinations toward violence – but at times exhibited a disturbing side.”
Zehaf-Bibeau’s friend says the suspected shooter would talk frequently about being chased by the devil, and the presence of demons in the world, and posits that the man was “mentally ill.”
Bathurst notes when he last saw him, Zehaf-Bibeau said he wanted to return to Libya to study Islam and Arabic.
Zehaf-Bibeau’s time in Vancouver also included criminal activity; he was charged for his role in a 2011 robbery. “Zehaf-Bibeau was seen at the time by a psychiatrist, who found him fit to stand trial. He later pleaded guilty to uttering threats and had criminal convictions in other parts of the country for drug possession,” reports Global News.
Wednesday afternoon, the Vancouver Police Department confirmed they and the BC RCMP were cooperating with the Ottawa Police Service and RCMP National Security investigation. “Due to the ongoing investigation, there is little information we can share at this time,” the VPD’s terse media release reads.
Zehaf-Bibeau’s criminal record extends back to to 2004, when the Quebec-born man was living in Montreal and charge with drug possession. He “pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail,” notes CBC News.
Just ahead of Wednesday’s shooting, Zehaf-Bibeau had been staying at the Ottawa Mission homeless shelter. John Clothier, a resident of the shelter, told CBC Ottawa he and others had seen Zehaf-Bibeau on the premises, and Clothier had heard him “desperately” trying to get help to buy a small car.
The shelter resident says Zehaf-Bibeau seemed “very bizarre,” however not necessarily more so than some others at the Mission. Clothier notes Zehaf-Bibeau speak about the coming of the end of the world, and the need to pray several times a day because of it.
Wednesday, a disturbing photo allegedly of Zehaf-Bibeau, was circulated by ISIS online:
— Jonathan Wade (@JWadeMoses) October 22, 2014
Locally, the Burnaby mosque where Zehaf-Bibeau had been attending for prayers distanced itself from Wednesday’s shootings, according to CBC News:
A chairperson at the mosque said he did not know Zehaf-Bibeau and that he was appalled by the day’s events. He emphasized that they work very hard to ensure radicalization does not happen.
Similarly, Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother, Susan Bibeau, told the Associated Press she was somewhat estranged from her son, and had spoken with him last week, but not seen him in about five years. “If I’m crying it’s for the people. Not for my son,” she told the AP.
Additionally, Bibeau said in an email to the Associated Press: “I am mad at my son, I don’t understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time.”
Zehaf-Bibeau is suspected of fatally shooting Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist from Hamilton, who was on duty at the National War Memorial. The gunman then fled to Parliament Hill, where he opened fire inside Centre Block. He was fatally shot by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.
Ottawa Police now say there was just one gunman, not multiple as previously feared, reports News 1130. “Const. Marc Soucy says no other assailants are currently being sought and the investigation is ongoing.”