Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Muslim convert who fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo–a 24-year-old father standing guard at Ottawa’s War Memorial–and injured another officer, was a petty criminal and the son of a leading Canadian immigration official.
Born in Quebec as Michael Joseph Hall and raised in Laval, just north of Montreal, the young man lived a quiet childhood of private schools and suburban homes, with a mother who was a high ranking federal employee.
Then, after years of run-ins with the law, he converted to Islam.
A criminal court database shows 13 identified Quebec court records dating back to June 2001 in Montreal involving Zehaf-Bibeau.
According to documents his full name is Michael, Joseph, Paul, Abdallah Bulgasem Zehaf Bibeau.
He was charged in February 2004 for possession of marijuana and possession of PCP. He pleaded guilty to both charges in December 2004, serving one day in prison for marijuana possession and 60 days for PCP possession.
He also spent a day in jail in March 2004 for a parole violation and was again convicted of marijuana possession in 2009.
In another case, he received a six-month sentence in 2003 and three years’ probation on a weapons charge, according to the Herald News.
There was also a prior conviction for assault causing bodily harm in 2001 for which he received a suspended sentence and a fine.
His longest sentence was for robbery, possession of break-in tools, theft and conspiracy with a co-accused in 2003, for which he was sentenced to two years in jail and three years probation.
It is uncertain how much of that sentence he ultimately ended up serving.
In 2011, he was again charged with robbery, this time in Vancouver, but served only one day in prison after he pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of uttering threats, and was credited with 66 days in pre-trial custody.
Records show that in the 2011 case, he underwent a psychiatric assessment prior to his conviction and was found fit to stand trial.
One of his friends, David Bathurst, a fellow convert, said he met him at at the Masjid al-Salaam mosque in Burnaby, British Columbia about three years ago.
Bathurst even got Zehaf-Bibeau a job at his family’s business, Bathurst Irrigation.
He said the young man lived in a small and unfurnished apartment, and that while he did not ‘at first appear to have extremist views or inclinations toward violence’ he ‘at times exhibited a disturbing side.’
‘We were having a conversation in a kitchen, and I don’t know how he worded it: He said the devil is after him,’ Bathurst said.
‘I think he must have been mentally ill.’
He cited one time Bibeau called police to the mosque to confess to a crime he had committed years before.
Bathurst said Bibeau wanted to travel to the Middle East, and he urged him to make sure it was just studying on his mind.
He says Zehaf-Bibeau told him he was ‘only going abroad with the intent of learning about Islam and to study Arabic.’
He was never able to go though, and sources told The Globe and Mail ‘he had not been able to secure a valid travel document from federal officials, who have been taking measures to prevent Canadians from joining extremists overseas.’
It’s understood that he traveled to the U.S on four occasions–most recently in 2013. Officials there are trying to trace who he met while in the country. It’s not known at this time if he made contact with any extremists, according to CNN.
Bathurst says that after friction with the elders at the house of worship, Zehaf-Bibeau was eventually asked to stop attending prayers at the mosque.
Bathurst also brought up that Zehaf-Bibeau knew Hasibullah Yusufzai, a British Columbia man, charged under an anti-terrorism law for allegedly leaving Canada to join Islamist fighters in Syria.
He remains at large.
Zehaf-Bibeau’s mother, Susan Bibeau, still lives in Montreal and works as a a federal public servant for the Immigrant & Refugee board.
She is listed as Deputy Chairperson, Immigration Division.
According to the site, she joined IRB in 1990 as a refugee protection officer, working her way up over her 24-year career.
She holds a Bachelor of Law degree from the Université de Montréal, a Master of Business Administration from Concordia University, and a graduate certificate in business administration from the Public Administration University.
Zehaf- Bibeau’s father is a Libyan businessman named Bulgasem Zehaf who once owned a local restaurant, Cafe Tripoli.
He divorced Susan Bibeau in 1999, and there are reports that he fought in Libya in 2011.
The Washington Times quoted a fighter named Belgasem Zahef in a dispatch from anti-Gaddafi rebels in 2011.
Describing himself as from Montreal but a Zawiyah native he said he witnessed torture when held in a regime prison.
In a statement on Thursday Ms Bibeau revealed she was reunited with her terrorist son last week when they met for lunch. She said they had been estranged for five years prior to that meeting.
Releasing the statement on behalf of herself and her ex-husband, she said the couple were ‘mad at their son’ and were crying for the victims.
‘No words can express the sadness we are feeling at this time. We are so sad that a man lost his life. He has lost everything and he leaves behind a family that must feel nothing but pain and sorrow. We send our deepest condolences to them although words seem pretty useless.
‘We are both crying for them. We also wish to apologize for all the pain, fright and chaos he created. We have no explanation to offer. I am mad at our son, I don’t understand and part of me wants to hate him at this time.
‘You write that our son was vulnerable, we don’t know, we (he) was lost and did not fit in. 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. Once again we are so sorry.’
Sources describe Zehaf-Bibeau as ‘a man who had had a religious awakening and seemed to have become mentally unstable.’
That was not always the case though it seems.
Janice Parnell, a former neighbor of the family, said Zehaf-Bibeau was a typical teen, though one who led a very privileged life.
She said he went to a ‘private school’ and lived in a ‘nice home in a nice neighborhood,’ and that the only problem she ever had with Bibeau was that he ‘played loud music.’
She also said he seemed to be an only child.
That is a far cry from the Bibeau’s last known address in Vancouver, which, according to the Ottawa Citizen, was The Beacon, a Salvation Army rooming house.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed his nation on Wednesday evening from an undisclosed location, condemning this horrific act which he labeled a terrorist attack.
He also told his people that ‘Canada will never be intimidated.’
On Thursday morning, he joined his wife Laureen in laying flowers at the scene of the fatal shooting.
Queen Elizabeth also paid her respects to the Canadian people and expressed her sadness.
‘Prince Philip and I were shocked and saddened by the events in Ottawa. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected,’ she said.
President Obama also spoke about what he called the ‘tragic’ situation in Canada, saying ‘we have to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with these kinds of acts of senseless violence or terrorism.’
He then added, ‘I pledged, as always, to make sure that our national security teams are coordinating very closely, given not only is Canada one of our closest allies in the world but they’re our neighbors and our friends, and obviously there’s a lot of interaction between Canadians and the United States, where we have such a long border.’
The shooting spree began at 9.52am when witnesses reported seeing a gunman climb out of a car, grab a rifle, shoot the soldier in the abdomen and then turn towards Parliament.
Corporal Cirillo was rushed to hospital but later succumbed to his injuries.
Cirillo, a fitness fanatic and animal lover with a six-year-old son, was a reservist serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in Hamilton.
‘Nathan was a good man,’ friend Marie Michele told CBC News. ‘He would give anything to anyone.’
Eye-witness Tony Zobl, 35, told The Canadian Press: ‘I looked out the window and saw a shooter–a man dressed all in black with a kerchief over his nose and mouth and something over his head as well–holding a rifle and shooting an honour guard in front of the Cenotaph, point blank, twice.
‘It looked like the honour guard was trying to reach for the barrel of the gun. The honour guard dropped to the ground and the shooter kind of raised his arms in triumph holding the rifle.’
An eye-witness told The Ottawa Citizen that he’d seen a man armed with a double-barreled shotgun wearing a scarf ‘hijack a car’.
He added: ‘It was pretty intense.’
Ottawa police received a call at 9.54am that shots had been heard inside the Parliament, while journalists cowering inside said they heard dozens of rounds and could smell gunpowder in the halls.
At least one staff member, Constable Samerarn Son was shot in the leg. He is expected to recover fully from his injuries.
A shootout unfolded and Zehaf-Bibeau was killed by Sergeant-At-Arms Kevin Vickers, who worked for the RCMP for 29 years before joining the Parliament in 2006.
‘I am safe & profoundly grateful to Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our security forces for selfless act of keeping us safe,’ said Julian Fantino, Canada’s Minister of Veterans Affairs, on Twitter.
The Sergeant-at-Arms is responsible for safeguarding the authority of the House of Commons and providing safety and security of the Parliament buildings and the people inside.
As gunfire erupted in the hallways, journalists and politicians scrambled for safety, while members in the Conservative Party caucus room blocked the door with a stack of chairs.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was immediately evacuated from Parliament and taken to an undisclosed location.
He had been scheduled to give Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, co-winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, her Canadian citizenship in Toronto, but that trip was cancelled.
The teenage activist took to Twitter after the incident, writing, ‘I extend my thoughts and prayers to the Canadian people during this difficult time.’
Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, told CBC that he saw a man running with a shotgun, wearing a scarf and blue jeans.
He said that the man jumped over a fence around Parliament Hill and forced someone out of their car, then drove to the front doors of the Parliament building and fired at least twice.
Reporter Jordan Press added that the car–a Toyota Corolla–was parked in front of the building with its engine still running.
A video shot by a Globe and Mail reporter showed RCMP officers moving through Parliament’s main hall toward the Parliamentary library, as the hallway echoed with gunfire.
Other reporters inside the building described the panic in the hallways.
‘Dozens of shots in parliament,’ Josh Wingrove, a reporter for the Globe and Mail, tweeted just before 10am. ‘I see a body on the ground outside the library of parliament.
Speaking to CNN, Wingrove said it appeared Zehaf-Bibeau entered the front entrance that has ‘many armed guards’ but no metal detector’.
‘If you flash your valid pass, they allow you to go in,’ he said. ‘This appears to be the entry point [of the gunman] based on witness accounts.’
The RMP advised people in downtown Ottawa to stay away from windows and off roofs as they responded to the incident. The University of Ottawa was also briefly placed on lockdown.