Ottawa shooting: Calgary police chief says attack not believed to be co-ordinated event

Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson says local officers remain vigilant after a shooting in Ottawa Wednesday morning.

Biggest concern now is copycats, says Rick Hanson

Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson said officers in the city are aware of the constant threat Canada faces, but at this time there is no indication of a co-ordinated event. (CBC)

Calgary police Chief Rick Hanson says local officers remain vigilant after a shooting in Ottawa Wednesday morning.

Parliament Hill was locked down after 24-year-old reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was fatally wounded while standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa.

Hanson says the Ottawa attack does not appear to be part of a bigger plan, but the concern now is copycat events.

"Someone who takes this as an opportunity to elevate their own status by committing an act that he knows will get national and international attention," he said.

Hanson said Calgary is not at higher risk for an attack than any other major city in the country. 

"The threat to Canada and its front-line members is not new," he said. "We have known for some time now that nowhere in the world is immune."

Hanson said the shooting in Ottawa may be a wake-up call for some Canadians that these type of attacks happen, but the Calgary police have been operating on a level that recognizes the risk exists.

How did it happen?

A local security expert says this kind of attack could happen anywhere. Kelly Sundberg, who teaches in the department of Justice Studies at Mount Royal University, says he's astonished the gunman got so far into Parliament before he was shot and killed. ​

"It's not enough just to think of how we secure government spaces and other spaces, but I think both the private and public sectors have to start thinking about how we can maximize the level of security and protection of our built environments," he said.

"And in Alberta with the oilsands, can you just imagine what would happen with one of our refineries if there was an attack on one of them. The impact it would have on our provincial economy as well as our national economy, it would be devastating."

University of Calgary terrorism expert Michael Zekulin says the attack appears to be a copycat from a fatal hit-and-run collision in Quebec earlier this week. Canadian military members were the targets in both cases.

Some people in Calgary's downtown wonder if decisions by the federal government have made Canada a target.

"I think if we would have remained in our role as peacekeeper for the world we wouldn't be having these problems," said Wayne Stewart.

No lockdowns in Calgary

The City of Calgary says it has not escalated security measures to the point of locking down municipal buildings, but there is a "heightened awareness."

Nathan Cirillo, 24, was shot and killed in Ottawa on Wednesday morning standing guard at the National War Memorial. (Instagram)

Calgary Transit says it has asked staff to also have "heightened awareness" and watch for anything suspicious, but the Calgary airport say it's business as usual today.

The Calgary Flames says it is reviewing its security protocols, but it has already installed metal detectors, bag checks and surveillance at the Saddledome.

"Be confident that the policing agencies in this city are committed to providing the best security they can," said Hanson.

Police sources have confirmed to CBC News the dead shooting suspect is Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982.

It was confirmed later the gunman was shot dead inside the Parliament building by the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers and RCMP. Vickers used to work for Calgary RCMP in the 1990s.

Calgary included in terrorism investigations

Hanson says any investigations into terrorism in the country are handled nationally by the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service​ (CSIS), and Calgary police are in constant contact.

Information is still being gathered on Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the suspect in the attack on Parliament HIll and the War Memorial. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that attack and the fatal hit and run of another solider two days earlier in Quebec were "terrorist" acts. (Twitter)

Investigators have travelled to Calgary in the past after it was revealed the city could be a hotbed for terrorist activity.

A CBC News investigation revealed Calgary is earning a reputation as a breeding ground for jihadi fighters.

Hanson said it's important that families who are worried about loved ones being radicalized reach out to police.

Anyone with information related to suspicious activities is asked to call the RCMP National Security Information Network at 1-800-420-5805. 

Alberta MLA saw shooter

An Alberta provincial cabinet minister actually saw the gunman involved in Wednesday's shootings in Ottawa.

Ric McIver was in Ottawa for meetings. He says he heard the commotion after shots were fired at the National War Memorial.

I went down that way and he went running into the Parliament buildings.- Alberta MLA Ric McIver

Suddenly, he saw the gunman make his way onto Parliament Hill.

"So we went back across the street to where we thought we could get out of the line of bullets, behind you know blocks," he said.

"And then .... we were standing right in front of there and he pulled up in that brown Toyota right beside us and we kinda got out of the way and I went down that way and he went running into the Parliament buildings."

McIver says the incident was frightening.

MPs were forced into lockdown

Some MPs on Parliament Hill were under lockdown earlier Wednesday while police continued their investigation. 

Inside the Centre Block on Parliament Hill, Calgary MP Michelle Rempel was in a caucus meeting with other Conservatives when she heard shots.

She tells CBC News she and other MPs ran for cover. In her case, she hid under a desk in an office for an hour not knowing what was happening.

Rempel says she heard three waves of shots and after a period of calm, she was taken out of the room by police officers with the tactical unit to a secured room with others who were under police guard.

The MP says she's in shock after the events in the capital.

Veteran weighs in

Meanwhile, a former fighter pilot from Calgary says Canadians should not cower in light of the shooting in Ottawa.

Flowers have been laid outside the Mewata Armoury in downtown Calgary after the tragic event that took place in Ottawa Wednesday. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Don Matthews, a retired CF-18 pilot and current chair of the Air Force Museum Society of Alberta, was at the Military Museums in Calgary Wednesday for the unveiling of a refurbished cold war plane.

But like many who were there, Matthews was preoccupied with the day's tragic events.  

"I think it's the work of people who have lost touch with reality. If you are a Canadian citizen and you have the freedoms and the rights of a Canadian and you choose to try and destroy that? We do not cower in a corner and hide from that kind of attack. No. Never."

An event will be held at the Cenotaph in Central Memorial Park on Saturday at 11 .m. MT to pay respect to Canadian soldiers — and to remember what happened Wednesday in Ottawa. Calgarians are asked to bring Canadian flags. 

A small makeshift memorial was also set up at the Mewata Armoury in downtown Calgary.


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