RCMP: Update on Yesterday’s Tragic Events

Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for joining us.

We want to provide an update on certain aspects of the terrible events that unfolded yesterday in downtown Ottawa and on Parliament Hill.

Foremost, I would like to extend condolences on behalf of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the friends and family of Corporal Nathan Cirillo.

Our sympathies are with our friends in the Canadian Forces, who have tragically lost another member of their family this week to senseless violence.

Our thoughts are also with those who sustained injuries in yesterday’s incident, and those who were kept from their loved ones during the tense hours of lock-downs while police searched for other possible suspects.

As we all now know, the suspect has been identified as Michael Joseph Zehaf-Bibeau, 32 years old.  He is a Canadian citizen, and we have information that he may have had dual Libyan / Canadian citizenship.  He was born in Montreal has lived in Calgary and most recently in Vancouver.

Here is what the RCMP knew about Zehaf-Bibeau before the incidents:

We were aware that he had applied recently for a passport as we were contacted to conduct background checks.  The RCMP did not possess information at that time that would reveal any National Security-related criminality.

His criminal records indicated infractions related to drug, violence and other criminal activities.

The RCMP also had uncorroborated information suggesting that he had associations with an individual who is known to us.  I can confirm that Zehaf-Bibeau was not one of the 90 high risk travelers that the RCMP is currently investigating.  According to some accounts, he was an individual who may have held extremist beliefs.

We have learned through the current investigation that this individual has been in Ottawa since at least October 2nd, 2014, that he was in town to deal with a passport issue but that he was hoping to leave for Syria.

We also learned yesterday that the beige vehicle used by the suspect was purchased on October 21, 2014.

There were concerns at the initial stage of the emergency response that there may have been more than one individual involved.  Our partners at the Ottawa Police Service and the RCMP agree that yesterday Zehaf-Bibeau acted alone and that he is the same person that perpetrated the attacks at both the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill.

The investigation is ongoing and will rapidly determine if Zehaf-Bibeau received any support in the planning of his attack.

We have no information linking the two attacks this week, in St-Jean-sur-le-Richelieu and in Ottawa.  Our investigation has not revealed any link between Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau, the individual who perpetrated the attack against member of our Canadian Forces in Quebec.

These are difficult threats to detect.

There is no way of knowing where or when such an attack could take place.

I can provide you with a brief timeline of events as we understand them at this point.

Let me start by playing a video on how events unfolded yesterday and then I’ll explain in more details (VIDEO PLAYS)

  • Witnesses interviewed by Ottawa Police Services reported seeing the shooter, at around 9:50 coming from behind the War Memorial on the West side where he fires twice at Reservist Nathan Cirillo.
  • The shooter is positioned on an angle behind the victim where they cannot see him coming (as they are facing south). The shooter fires one shot at the second guard, but he missed him. Witnesses heard the suspect yelling something in English and then running towards the north.
  • The investigation revealed that he used the beige vehicle and headed to Wellington.
  • The first calls received via 911 were around 09:52:36
  • From the National War Memorial the suspect drove North on Wellington Street and parked his vehicle at 9:52:23 in front of the Elgin entrance.
  • He accessed the grounds of Parliament Hill at 9:52:31 on foot and started running toward East Block where MP vehicles were parked.
  • At 9:53:16, video footage shows the suspect overtook one of these vehicles and drove toward Center Block.
  • At 9:53:37, he immobilized the vehicle on the left side of the Peace Tower and started running toward the main doors of Center Block.  At that time, RCMP vehicles on site chased the suspect to the entrance of Center Block.
  • The suspect entered Center Block at 9:53:46, seconds before the RCMP officers that were chasing him were able to reach the doors.
  • It took approximately 1 minute and 23 seconds between the time the suspect parked the beige car and entered Center Block
  • Once inside Centre Block, the suspect engaged in a fire exchange with the House of Commons Security and RCMP officers. The exact details of this exchange are still under investigation. We need to recognize the courage of all officers involved in this fluid and dangerous situation.
  • The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.

There is no longer an immediate threat however we continue to exercise increased vigilance, and are taking extra precautions to ensure that Canadians remain safe across the country.

Until we are able to fully review the current threat picture, additional security measures have been taken to increase surveillance of suspected high risk travelers currently under investigation across the country.

This is an unsettling event for all of us.  Though we are calling on everyone to remain vigilant, I want to stress that you are safe.  Your families are safe.

It is disheartening and frightening to anyone – police included– when a senseless act of violence takes place in Canada.

I would like to acknowledge the response of RCMP members, Parliamentary security and Ottawa Police officers, who rushed into a dangerous and volatile situation.  We had a total of 400 resources deployed to Parliament Hill yesterday.  This included investigators, intelligence, emergency response teams, technical support, crisis negotiators, incident commanders, tactical troops and more.

I realize there will be many questions regarding the RCMP’s role in protecting the Parliamentary Precinct.

I can tell you, it is certainly a challenging security environment.

We must balance the need to be responsive to potential threats and risks to our Parliamentarians, their staff and the general public, with the freedom to allow for secure and democratic access in and around our institutions of government.

I want to close by thanking the public who respected and tolerated the security perimeters established in downtown Ottawa yesterday, along with the many other citizens who patiently waited in lock-down until the scene was secure.

There was a large volume of people at the scene of the incident and it took time to process them and ensure their safety.

Your cooperation was invaluable to officers who were trying to get a difficult job done under very stressful circumstances.

I also want to acknowledge the media who took time to sift through facts in order to provide timely and accurate information to the public.

We understand that when such terrible incidents happen, there is an appetite to know as much as possible – as soon as possible.

Trust that we want to provide you this information, but we also must respect protocol regarding notification of kin, along with protecting the integrity of the investigation of an incident that was still ongoing at the time.

Our investigation continues and is complex in scope.  We will be increasing our uniformed presence for the immediate future by adding an additional rapid response capability.

Be assured we have the right people working to accomplish the large task at hand.

We ask for the public’s continued patience as we continue to investigate this matter.

These tragic events underscore how we all must take active measures to ensure we protect that the safety and security of all Canadians.

Look out for each other. Remain vigilant, but know that Canada remains strong and free.

Stay safe.

Thank you.