Ottawa shooting: Kevin Vickers hailed as hero who helped stop attacker

House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was lauded by members of Parliament Wednesday for his reported role in stopping an assailant who killed a Canadian Forces member in Ottawa.

'Thank God for Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers,' tweets Justice Minister Peter MacKay

House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers is a 29-year veteran of the RCMP. He was credited Wednesday with helping to stop the attacker on Parliament Hill. (CBC)

House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was lauded by members of Parliament Wednesday for his reported role in stopping an assailant who killed a Canadian Forces member in Ottawa.

Vickers, 58, a native of Miramichi, N.B., was reportedly in the House of Commons when a gunman entered sometime after 9:52 a.m.

Two sources told The Canadian Press that Vickers shot the assailant inside the Hall of Honour, the main entrance to the Centre Block beneath the Peace Tower.

Officials have not confirmed that Vickers fired at the suspect, but multiple MPs credited Vickers on Twitter with helping to stop the attacker.

MPs tweet thanks

On Twitter, MPs credited Vickers with saving their lives:

  • "MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms." —New Democrat MP Craig Scott.
  • "I am safe & profoundly grateful to Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our security forces for selfless act of keeping us safe." —Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.
  • "Thank God for Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our Cdn security forces. True heroes." —Justice Minister Peter MacKay.
  • "Kevin Vickers is such a fine man. His actions today are no surprise. Proud to call him a friend." —Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

Vickers became the sergeant-at-arms in the House of Commons eight years ago after a varied career in security that included protecting foreign dignitaries and members of the Royal Family. 

He spent 29 years with the RCMP and rose to the rank of chief superintendent, often serving as the face of the national police force in New Brunswick. Before his appointment as sergeant-of-arms, Vickers was director of security operations for the House of Commons.

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for safeguarding the authority of the House, as well as the safety and security of the Parliament Buildings.

'You don't want to mess with him'

Vickers's brother John, who lives in Victoria, told CBC News Wednesday that his brother called their mother, Monica, at her New Brunswick home shortly after the incident to tell her he is safe. 

"I just couldn't be prouder of him right now," John said, adding that his brother has "always been committed to service, people and country." 

When asked about Vickers’s reported heroics, his cousin Keith said “It’s Kevin being Kevin.”

“He’s a very intelligent and responsible person. He’s a people person-type fellow, too, but you don’t want to mess with him,” said Keith. “All the boys, the local guys, they’ll be quite proud to hear he did what he did.”

According to Keith, Vickers’s son is currently a police officer with the local force in Miramichi.

Dan Bussières, the current sergeant-at-arms in the New Brunswick Legislature and Vickers’s colleague in the RCMP for many years, called him “a true gentleman who is very responsible.”

“He’s the perfect man to be the sergeant-at-arms in Ottawa right now. I can assure you of that,” Bussières said. 

Prior to his appointment in the House of Commons, Vickers worked as an aide-de-camp for New Brunswick's former lieutenant-governor, Marilyn Trenholme Counsell.

Vickers served under Trenholme Counsell for four years starting in 1999. She watched closely Wednesday as reports came in about the shootings in Ottawa and news that Vickers may have played a central role in the events.

Trenholme Counsell said she was not surprised to learn of his possible involvement.

"Not at all, it's so much in his character to take charge of something and do what has to be done," she said from her home as TV news reports played in the background.

"He is fearless in the face of a challenge. It didn't surprise me that he acted."

As an RCMP officer, Vickers was responsible for security services provided for the Queen and Prince Andrew.

He is a recipient of the Queen's Jubilee medal, the Canada 125 medal and the RCMP Long Service medal. 

Former RCMP deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas, who has also served as a security chief on Parliament Hill, called Vickers a "natural planner" and said his former RCMP colleague has always "had a contingency plan."

"He actually did mock-up scenarios for the personnel ... very much like what happened today," Bourdas said. "Knowing Kevin the way I do, he is very troubled by this chain of events."

Sergeant-at-arms 1st line of safety

Although sergeants-at-arms often operate outside of the public spotlight, the events on Parliament Hill are not the first time they have been instrumental in preventing bloodshed in Canadian history.

When army supply clerk Denis Lortie opened fire in Quebec's National Assembly in 1984, the legislature's sergeant-at-arms went into the chamber and tried to calm him.

Rene Jalbert, a retired major in the army, offered Lortie a cigarette and eventually persuaded him to release about a dozen hostages who were cowering in the chamber.

The legislature was minutes away from convening when Lortie entered the building through a side door carrying two submachine guns, and at one point sat in the Speaker's chair firing wildly. He killed three people and wounded 13 others.

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With files from The Canadian Press