Calgary skyscraper attack plotter contacted Veterans Affairs for help

A Calgary man who has pleaded guilty to firearms and explosives charges linked to a plot to attack a downtown skyscraper housing Veterans Affairs offices had reached out to the agency for help prior to his arrest, CBC News has learned.

Ex-military intelligence member arrested this year under Mental Health Act, dozens of weapons seized

Ex-military man planned attack on Veterans Affairs office

8 years ago
Duration 1:30
Former member of military intelligence arrested under Mental Health Act, dozens of weapons seized. Target was Calgary skyscraper

A Calgary man who has pleaded guilty to firearms and explosives charges linked to a plot to attack a downtown skyscraper housing Veterans Affairs offices had reached out to the agency for help prior to his arrest, CBC News has learned.

The 45-year-old man — who once worked in military intelligence — can only be referred to as GG under a court-ordered publication ban. He had undergone a preliminary psychiatric exam and was fit to stand trial, but pleaded guilty Thursday in a Calgary courtroom to three of seven charges.

The Calgary man had been in a fight with Veterans Affairs Canada over compensation for health-care costs (CBC)

GG has not yet entered pleas on the four other charges related to possessing firearms and weapons and making explosives. He will be back in court Nov. 27 and is expected to be sentenced in 2015.

Crown prosecutor Doug Simpson told CBC News that a terrorism charge was considered but never laid. 

GG was arrested last January after he was found with weapons, explosives and detailed building plans that apparently targeted the Veterans Affairs office on the seventh floor of the Bantrel Tower at 700 Sixth Avenue S.W.

"Veterans Affairs Canada was advised of the situation by the RCMP, and implemented additional security measures to ensure the safety and security of employees, veterans and their families,” said spokeswoman Ashlee Smith.

According to court documents, GG joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2008. He had been working in military intelligence, but he went on long-term disability three years later.

For at least a year before his arrest last January, GG had been at odds with Veterans Affairs over compensation for health-care costs. He alleged an H1N1 flu shot he received while in the military led to him being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

GG repeatedly contacted Veterans Affairs to voice his concerns and recorded many of his conversations with them.

"I am wound up very tight, and yeah, I'm not doing well because of it," GG told one of the people he spoke with at the agency. "It almost feels like Veterans Affairs is trying to manage my health as opposed to my doctors and specialists.... I'm looking for somebody to help me do what I normally do."

RCMP were called by GG's wife, whose name also can't be released under the publication ban, on Jan. 8, 2014, at 5:47 p.m. after she suspected that her husband was possibly suicidal.

She told police that GG was a former member of the military and that he had taken a rifle with him when he left their home.

Weapons and other items seized
  • .40-calibre HK semi-automatic handgun
  • 308-calibre single bolt/semi-automatic rifle
  • Ballistic range scope finder
  • Laser sight
  • 7 loaded magazines (5 modified to hold 20 rounds or centre fire ammunition)
  • 1,000 rounds of ammunition
  • Night vision binoculars
  • Rifle bipod
  • Plastic jugs containing "light green liquid" marked A, B and M (ammonia, bleach, muriatic acid)
  • Plastic jugs labelled B, CAL and M 
  • Hodgdons Triple 7" black gun powder
  • 16 canisters of bear spray
  • Smoke grenades
  • Gas mask
  • USB battery charger with wires running from car battery (but not attached)
  • 16 black sticks resembling dynamite
  • Tactical helmet
  • 2 flashlights
  • Body armour
  • Camouflage face paint
  • 8 threaded pipes/elbows
  • Smokeless gun powder
  • Carpenter nails
  • Laptop
  • Cellphone

After a search of several hours, police found GG on his parents' acreage near Springbank just west of Calgary. He was sleeping in a utility trailer and dressed in camouflage pants. Police found a duffle bag beside him that contained a loaded .40-calibre HK semi-automatic handgun.

GG told officers he intended to commit suicide. He was arrested under the Mental Health Act and taken to hospital for treatment.

Guns, explosives found

Officers also found several items inside GG's car, including a loaded semi-automatic rifle, 1,000 rounds of ammunition, night vision binoculars, gun powder, bear spray and smoke grenades. They also found eight jugs of chemicals  including ammonia, bleach, muriatic acid and chlorine  in two suitcases. Wires from a battery were running in the direction of the suitcases, but were not attached to them.

Police were also unable to identify substances found in smaller containers. 

A corporal with the RCMP explosives unit said that as part of his work following GG's arrest, he constructed a pipe bomb using materials found in GG's car. The corporal detonated the pipe bomb, and said it would have been extremely dangerous to the public.

In-depth plans

Police also seized several items in GG's possession, including six videos (some taken by GG in November and December 2013 at the Bantrel Tower) and a few photographs from his cellphone. A copy of a typed plan and building information on the Bantrel Tower were also found on GG's laptop. 

The plan contained notes by GG that he made during reconnaissance of the Bantrel Tower, and the Crown said the notes referred to a plan made in the fall of 2013 "to attack the office of Veterans Affairs in the Bantrel Tower Building."

One part of the plan was labelled as a "Risk Assessment," while another had the title "Walking around the building with IR camera on identifying." There are references to steps to be taken on certain floors of the building.

GG also had a copy the Bantrel Tower building specifications, including exits, entrances and office locations.

Temporary publication ban

Defence lawyer Tonii Roulston had asked the judge for a publication ban to protect GG and his wife from public retaliation.

"I am not seeking to have the facts of this case quashed or that these facts not be heard by members of the public," said Roulston. "Here, there is some substantial harm that is real.

The nature of the charges are a bit unusual from what we would normally see before the court.- Tonii Roulston, defence lawyer

"The nature of the charges are a bit unusual from what we would normally see before the court."

Judge Sean Dunnigan agreed.

CBC went to court to oppose the publication ban, arguing it may give the public the impression that media are trying to hide or protect the accused, and that an attempt to avoid embarrassment for the family would set a serious precedent.

Bantrel Tower is located in downtown Calgary and houses multiple offices. (CBC)

Dunnigan, however, said he did not have time to make a proper decision: "I don't want to shoot from the hip here." So he approved an interim publication ban, on the names of the accused, and his wife, with reservations.

The interim publication ban will last for two weeks. There will be a full hearing on the ban after that period, as the judge wanted more time to prepare a decision. CBC plans to continue to fight the ban.

GG will undergo a forensic psychiatric exam and a risk assessment before his sentencing.

Bantrel Tower building information

  • Building located on northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Sixth Street S.W. in downtown Calgary near shops, gym and the Calgary Courts Centre.
  • 11,000 square feet per floor
  • Number of floors: 22
  • +15 walkway access to all of downtown system

Google Maps: Location of building