Mom of Canada suspect: I cry for victims, not son

W.J. Hennigan; and Alexandra Zavis
Los Angeles Times

Ottawa, Ontario – — The gunman who carried out a shooting rampage at the Canadian Parliament and a nearby war memorial had applied for a passport and wanted to go to Syria, security officials said Thursday.

But officials said they were satisfied that he acted alone and there appeared to be no connection between Wednesday’s attack and one that took place in Quebec earlier this week.

Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, described Michael Zehaf-Bibeau at a news briefing as a 32-year-old Canadian who may also have held Libyan citizenship.

He was born in Montreal, had lived in Calgary and Vancouver, and had been in Ottawa since at least Oct. 2 to deal with his passport application, Paulson said.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police had been contacted to conduct background checks on Zehaf-Bibeau, who had a history of arrests for drugs, violence and other infractions.

According to some accounts, he may have held extremist beliefs and investigators had uncorroborated information suggesting that he had associations with an individual who was known to security officials, Paulson said. But he was not one of the 93 “high-risk travelers” that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are currently investigating.

A day after the deadly attack on Canada’s seat of government, a portrait of Zehaf-Bibeau began to emerge.

In recent weeks, he had been living at a homeless shelter and had talked about wanting to go to Libya — or Syria — but became agitated when he couldn’t get a passport.

Bob Paulson, commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, said that Zehaf-Bibeau — a recent Muslim convert whose father was from Libya — may have lashed out in frustration over delays.

“I think the passport figured prominently in his motives. I’m not inside his head, but I think it was central to what was driving him,” Paulson said.

In what the prime minister called a terrorist attack, Bibeau shot a soldier to death at Canada’s national war memorial Wednesday, then stormed the Parliament building, where he was gunned down by the sergeant-at-arms. Bibeau was armed with what police said was a lever-action Winchester rifle, an old-fashioned, relatively slow-firing weapon.

In a brief interview with the Associated Press, the suspect’s mother, Susan Bibeau, offered a tearful apology Thursday.

“Can you ever explain something like this?” she said. “We are sorry.”

“If I’m crying, it’s for the people,” she told AP. “Not for my son.”

The attack left parts of the city on lockdown for hours Wednesday. But all city services returned to normal Thursday, and the House of Commons reopened with a stepped-up police presence.

Addressing the chamber just yards from where the gunman was shot dead, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper pledged to expedite a plan to give the country’s security forces greater powers.

Lawmakers credited the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms, Kevin Vickers, with killing the gunman and gave him a standing ovation as he entered the chamber. Security officials confirmed Thursday he was one of the people who opened fire on Zehaf-Bibeau, but said the exchange was still under investigation.

Associated Press contributed.