RCMP say the gunman who stormed Parliament Hill on Wednesday was not among the 93 "high-risk" individuals being monitored as potentially violent radicals, nor was he linked to the man who attacked two soldiers earlier this week in Quebec.
But RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau is connected to an individual known to the Mounties, whom he did not identify, and said the attack appears partly motivated by trouble getting a new Canadian passport.
The revelations came during an hour-long news conference that featured stunning security camera video of Zehaf-Bibeau driving up to the gates of Parliament Hill, dashing with a rifle to hijack another car, and being chased by RCMP cars and officers into the front entrance of the Centre Block where the first of two gunfights broke out.
Paulson confirmed Montreal-born Zehaf-Bibeau had been in Ottawa since at least Oct. 2 seeking a passport, claiming he wanted to travel to Libya, and had been living in a local shelter awaiting RCMP background checks for the processing of his application.
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Without providing details, the commissioner said the stalled passport application was part of the shooter’s motivation this week for killing Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial, then attempting to wreak havoc in the Centre Block. He added that the gunman had told his mother his actual intended travel destination was Syria.
"I think the passport figured prominently in his motives," Paulson said.
Mounties step up PM security
Paulson noted that Zehaf-Bibeau's previous criminal record for drugs and violence prohibited him from owning a gun, but there was nothing in the record that might have flagged him as a dangerous radical.
Paulson also said the beige Toyota Zehaf-Bibeau used was purchased only Tuesday, and was used to drive to the National War Memorial where the reservist was fatally shot. The car was later abandoned in front of Parliament. Then Zehaf-Bibeau hijacked a federal cabinet minister’s idling car, ordering the driver out, then racing to the entrance of the Centre Block, three RCMP cars in hot pursuit.
The commissioner provided few details of what happened inside the building, but said that the Mounties are stepping up the security detail to protect Prime Minister Stephen Harper to around the clock because of the incident.
Harper had been inside a caucus meeting room on the main floor as the gunman rushed by, shooting at RCMP officers and security guards, who fired back.
The dramatic video, taken from several angles, demonstrated vividly how quickly the entire incident transpired, with less than two minutes from his arrival on the Hill to the gun battle in the entrance under the Peace Tower.
In St-Jean-sur-Richelieu on Monday, two Canadian Forces members were struck by Martin Couture-Rouleau. One soldier, Patrice Vincent, died in the attack and Couture-Rouleau was shot and killed by police.
A source who has gone over intelligence reports on Couture-Rouleau and Zehaf-Bibeau told CBC News they both came from broken homes, were adrift in their lives, used drugs and were self-radicalized.
Seize belongings of gunman
Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau confirmed police had seized the belongings of Zehaf-Bibeau from a downtown shelter where he had being staying. Residents there say he told them to pray because the "world is ending."
The Ottawa Mission is a homeless shelter a few blocks east of Parliament Hill, which was locked down after the shooting. A resident said RCMP also spent a long time in the shelter's computer room.
Zehaf-Bibeau was seen at the mission over the last two weeks, always wearing a scarf, residents said. Two days ago, he asked for help to buy a car after his own had broken down.
Like much of the downtown core, the mission went into lockdown Wednesday. Executive director Peter Tiley would not comment on Zehaf-Bibeau today, but confirmed that the RCMP had shown up.
'He acted bizarre, he did. Very bizarre.' - John Clothier, resident of shelter
"I've seen him around the mission here," shelter resident John Clothier said in an interview. "I've seen him for about two days. He was staying here, everybody was saying, for about two weeks to a month."
"I overheard him trying to buy a car … a small car, because his car had a misfire, he said. He wanted to buy a car, desperately, and he was trying to get help from everybody in here to get a car."
Parents issue statement
Meanwhile, the parents of the gunman issued a statement Thursday saying their son "was lost and did not fit in."
Susan Bibeau and Bulgasem Zehaf said they were "mad" at their son and part of them wanted to "hate him."
The mother said she had met her son for lunch last week after five years apart, but had little insight into his mental state.
The two also expressed sorrow for Cpl. Cirillo, saying they were crying for the bereaved family.
Text of a statement provided to The Associated Press by the parents of Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the gunman shot dead on Parliament Hill:
Hi, I am writing this note on behalf of my husband and myself. No words can express the sadness we are feeling at this time. 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. We are both crying for them. We also wish to apologize for all the pain, fright and chaos he created. We have no explanation to offer. I am mad at our son, I don't understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time. You write that our son was vulnerable, we don't know, we [he] was lost and did not fit in. I his mother spoke with him last week over lunch, I had not seen him for over five years before that. So I have very little insight to offer. We don't wish to be part of any media circus, we don't think it will add anything to the conversation. Please respect our privacy although many may not feel we deserve any.… Once again we are so sorry.
— Susan Bibeau and Bulgasem Zehaf
Earlier, Susan Bibeau told The Associated Press: "Can you ever explain something like this?"
Bordeleau said investigators have ruled out a second gunman in the attack on Parliament Hill, as the area remains under tight security, with police cordons blocking traffic and snipers visible atop downtown buildings.
"We’re satisfied at this point one individual was responsible for the shooting yesterday on the Hill," Bordeleau told CBC News, following almost 24 hours of uncertainty as armed officers took control of the city core.
Zehaf-Bibeau's rampage with a hunting rifle, identified as a 30-30 Winchester lever action gun, in the Canadian capital was stopped when Parliament's sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers, and RCMP fatally shot him in the marbled central hallway of the Centre Block, within metres of a room where the prime minister was meeting with members of Parliament.
"I am very touched by the attention directed at me following yesterday’s events," Vickers said in a statement today.
"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."
Ottawa Civic Hospital confirmed Wednesday that four people were taken to hospital: the soldier who died, and three who were released after treatment for minor injuries.