Out in the Open

'I had to tell myself I'm not like him': When your friend becomes a mass shooter

When Andrew Page found out his good friend Kimveer Gill was the Dawson College mass shooter, it was hard to take. It also made him question who he is as a person.
Students pause at a memorial for victims of the Dawson College shooting outside the downtown school in Montreal September 15, 2006. (Shaun Best/Reuters)
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We know Kimveer Gill as the mass shooter who went on a killing rampage in 2006 at Dawson College in downtown Montreal.

But to Andrew Page, Gill is also the guy he hung out with since high school.

"[Kimveer] was generous. He would invite me to his house, give me food, give me beer," he says.

They would even vandalize parts of the school together — Gill always trying to one up Page.

Andrew Page was good friends with Kimveer Gill, the Dawson College shooter. (Submitted by Andrew Page)

"Let's say I broke a neon light. Then he would break two. So he would copy whatever I did and exaggerate."

"We were friends from 1998 to 2006," says Page. That's when Gill killed one person, 18-year-old Anastasia DeSousa, and wounded 16 others. He also killed himself.

Page didn't find out his friend was the shooter until he saw him in the newspaper the next day.

Students wear pink in honour of the slain victim Anastasia De Sousa, before they re-enter Dawson College in Montreal on Sept. 18, 2006. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

"That was very awful. It was pretty terrible," he recalls. "I couldn't function properly. I was at work. I was supposed to do my shift making sandwiches and I couldn't make sandwiches properly."

He didn't understand how Gill was capable of the shooting.

"Did I really know this guy? I mean I had a relation[ship with him] for years … all of a sudden he decides to shoot people in a college. It doesn't make sense," says Page.

'Why did you hang out with him?'

It's been more than a decade, but Page still thinks about Gill every few days. The shooting made him mad at his friend.

"He hurt a lot of people. He was a completely different person that day than when I knew him from before," says Page.

A graduation picture of Anastasia DeSousa who was killed during the shooting at Dawson College in Montreal. (Handout/Canadian Press)

"It's two different people. He was the quietest guy in school and then all of a sudden, he's a murderer. To me, it didn't make sense."

The shooting not only made Page question who he thought his friend was, but also his own sense of self. 

"After something like that happens, you ask yourself a lot of questions. You know, I used to hang out with him and then he becomes a criminal. Am I normal? Am I an asshole? I had to tell myself I'm not like him."

But it wasn't just an internal dialogue.

"I got all these people, my family and friends and even strangers, [asking], 'How come you used to hang out with Kimveer Gill? Why did you hang out with him?'

It's not easy to know that the public has this perspective of you. Oh, you're Kimveer Gill's friend."