A 32-year-old Quebec man who had recently converted to Islam shot and killed a Canadian soldier standing guard at the War Memorial in Ottawa, then traveled to the nearby Canadian parliament, where he opened fire before being fatally shot by the sergeant-at-arms, whose heroic actions likely saved countless lives.
Multiple media outlets identified the man as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who had been known as Michael Joseph Hall before converting.
Here’s what we know about Bibeau:
1. He Recently Convered to Islam
After Bibeau’s name was released, this picture, widely reported to be Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was circulated on Twitter by the account @Breaking3Zero.
Military Studies told Heavy.com Martin Couture-Rouleau followed the same Canadian-based pro-ISIS Twitter account. On October 20, Rouleau killed a Canadian soldier by hitting him with his car. Rouleau was a recent convert to Islam and told a 911 operator that he performed the act in the name of Allah.
CBS News quoted U.S. officials when reporting Bibeau’s name. CNN and other outlets reported earlier that Canadian officials had shared the name with the FBI. According to the New York Times, the U.S. government has no record of Bibeau’s behavior. According to CNN, Bibeau had visited the U.S. four times, most recently in November 2013.
2. Bibeau Was Planning to Travel to Syria
A day after the shooting, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told the media that Bibeau had been in Ottawa since October 2 because he was trying to sort out an issue with his passport. It’s understood that Bibeau was planning to travel to Syria. Contrary to earlier reports, Bibeau wasn’t on any Canadian terror watch list but was in contact with someone who was.
You can read Commissioner Paulson’s full comments here:
A friend of Bibeau’s, Dave Bathurst, told The Globe and Mail that he first met Bibeau at a mosque three years ago. Bathurst said his friend had not demonstrated extremist views but had shown some “erratic” behavior recently. Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Bathurst said:
We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don’t know how he worded it: He said the devil is after him. I think he must have been mentally ill.
The last time Bathurst and Bibeau saw each other was six weeks ago when the Ottawa shooter said he wanted to go to Libya to study. Bibeau insisted to Bathurst that it was just to learn about Islam and nothing else. Commissioner Paulson told the media the day after the shooting that “we have information that [Paulson] may have had dual Libyan / Canadian citizenship.”
Dave Bathurst said that Bibeau knew Canadian terror suspect Hasibullah Yusufzai. He’s still at-large after leaving Canada to fight in Syria. CTV reports that emails from Bibeau appeared in the account of another Canadian terror suspect.
3. His Father Fought in Libya in 2011
According to the BBC, Bibeau’s father, Bulgasem Zehaf, was originally from Libya and at one point ran a cafe named the Tripoli Cafe in Montreal. The shooter’s mother, Susan Bibeau, worked on Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, reports The Globe and Mail. The couple divorced in 1999.
According to the Globe and Mail piece, Bulgasem Zehaf fought in Libya in 2011. The article doesn’t state if he fought with a pro or anti-Gaddafi faction.
After the tragedy in Ottawa, Susan Bibeau told the Associated Press:
Can you ever explain something like this? We are sorry. If I’m crying it’s for the people. Not for my son.
In an earlier email to the AP, Susan Bibeau and Bulgasem Zehaf said:
I his mother spoke with him last week over lunch, I had not seen him for over five years before that. So I have very little insight to offer.
Here’s the email in full:
4. He Has a Long Criminal Record
According to Montreal reporter Domenic Fazioli, Bibeau was arrested five times in the city. He has three possession charges dating back to December 2004 (marijuana and PCP). In that case, he pleaded guilty and spent 60 days in jail. His two other arrests were for parole violations. During his time in Montreal, Bibeau lived in the Villeray neighborhood. The Ottawa Citizen reports that he lived there between 2004 and 2006. The paper adds that after 2006 he “fell off the map for three years.” He failed to show in court on marijuana charges in 2006.
He also lived in the the Quebec town of Aylmer for a period.
According to CBS, sources say the shooter’s name was Michael Abdul Zehaf Bibeau, and he sometimes dropped the Michael and went by Abdul Zehalf Bibeau. The Vancouver Sun reported that Bibeau was arrested in British Columbia in 2011 for assault and robbery. The Sun says that in that case, he went by the name Michael Joseph Paul Zehaf Bibeau. The robbery happened in December 2011. According to Global News, Bibeau was arrested in Vancouver again in 2012, this time for making threats. On the threatening charge, he spent a day in prison. His most recent residence was in Vancouver.
5. He Was Killed by the Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms
Bibeau was shot dead by the Canadian Parliament’s Sergeant-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers. He was killed inside the Canadian parliament’s Center Block building.
Witnesses said they saw Bibeau wearing a black coat with blue jeans, reports CBC. The same report says the gun used in the attack was a double-barrel shotgun.
Alberta Labor Minister Ric McIver told the Ottawa Sun that Bibeau was driving a “brown Toyota Corolla with no license plate.” He added that the car “roared up the street and screeched to a halt.” Commissioner Paulson said that Bibeau had bought the car on October 21.
The soldier killed by Bibeau was named as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. He was a military reservist. Cirillo was from Hamilton in Ontario, Canada. He was just 24 years old. Commissioner Paulson said that Cirillo was shot twice when he had his back to Bibeau. The gunman then shot at another soldier but missed.