Ottawa Gunman Spent Final Night in Homeless Shelter

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the gunman who shot a Canadian soldier and stormed Parliament yesterday, was the son of a senior public servant who spent his final night praying to Allah in the stairwell of an Ottawa homeless shelter.

Zehaf-Bibeau, 32, has been identified as the man who killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, according to a U.S. law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity. He had been staying this month at the Ottawa Mission homeless shelter, several blocks from Parliament, according to two men who live at the shelter. They described him as a self-absorbed person who spooked other residents.

Zehaf-Bibeau prayed on a towel in the shelter’s stairwell the night before the shooting, forcing other residents to step around him, said a man who would only identify himself as “Dave.”

Police seized a large black bag and a garbage bag from the shelter in the hours following the attack, said another man who declined to be identified because he didn’t want to be questioned by police. Zehaf-Bibeau had talked to other shelter residents about getting a car, the man said.

Shirley Roy, a spokesman for the Ottawa Mission, didn’t immediately return messages left on her work and mobile numbers.

Canadians are struggling to understand how an individual with a middle-class upbringing could turn so violently against the society in which he was raised.

Gunman’s Mother

“It is hard to appreciate, understand, fathom how we can have people who are involved in a movement who so want violence, who so despise modernity, who so hate progress,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told lawmakers yesterday.

Zehaf-Bibeau was the son of Susan Bibeau, a deputy chairwoman at the Immigration and Refugee Board, an Ottawa-based tribunal that rules on immigration matters, the CTV television network reported. Robert Gervais, a spokesman for the board, declined to comment when asked to confirm whether Bibeau is the suspect’s mother.

In a brief phone interview today with Associated Press, Bibeau said she didn’t know what to say to those hurt in the shooting. “Can you ever explain something like this?” she told the news agency. “We are sorry.”

Born in Quebec, Zehaf-Bibeau later converted to Islam and also lived in Vancouver. He had a long criminal record, charged with possession of marijuana and a robbery in Vancouver, the Postmedia news agency reported.

Troubled Past

Zehaf-Bibeau fits the description of many of the young people who have been radicalized in the country, according to Ray Boisvert, president of I-Sec Integrated Strategies and a former assistant director at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. He said these young people are often disenfranchised and have a troubled past before turning to Islam for direction.

While Zehaf-Bibeau appears to have come from a stable, middle-class home, he later had several brushes with the law.

“The pathology is the same,” Boisvert said in a telephone interview. “Most of them came from less-than-stellar family situations and some just fell into the whole drug thing.”

The other consistency is that many of those who take up the fight lack a sense of direction, have fallen into bad things, and it’s as much about adventure as anything else, he said.

“A lot of them wouldn’t know a Koran if they tripped over it,” Boisvert said.

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