The reservist soldier shot dead Wednesday as he stood guard at Canada’s War Memorial in Ottawa was photographed by a Parliament Hill visitor mere moments before the horrific act of terror. Corporal Nathan Cirillo is pictured in what is in all likelihood the final photo taken of the 24-year-old father before he was shot at close range and fatally wounded. Seconds later, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot Cirillo, whose ceremonial weapon was not loaded. The soldier was rushed to a hospital, but soon succumbed to the wounds. Twitter user Kamakazi19982 posted the photo with the caption: ‘Ok so we were on a tour at the war monument in Ottawa a few minutes ago, a few seconds later there was a shooting.’ The Hamilton, Ontario native served Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada. That regiment is one of the country’s largest army reserve units in Canada and guarding the National War Memorial is part soldiers’ ceremonial duties.
The reservists are rotated on an hourly or bi-hourly basis, and it could have been any of the men — some part-time and others full — who served the duty on Parliament Hill Wednesday in their Black Watch tartan kilt, Glengarry and other regimental garb. But the fate befell Cirillo. Many of his closest friends were in his regiment, including Brendan Stevenson, who was believed to be standing beside him at the grave of the unknown soldier when he was shot, according to Maclean’s. Now his friends, family and fellow soldiers must try to make sense of what was an entirely senseless act. His devastated mother is on her way to Ottawa. ‘Nathan was a good man,’ friend Marie Michele told CBC News. ‘He would give anything to anyone.’ Michele said she learned she’d lost her friends in one of the most shocking ways imaginable–seeing it on TV. ‘I saw his face and it was him,’ Michele said. ‘That’s how I found out it was Nathan.’
Other family members said they found out Cirillo was the victim after seeing footage on the news. ‘When I saw the ambulance take him in and I saw his receding hairline, I knew it was my nephew,’ an unidentified aunt told the Globe and Mail. Friend Michele added that the soldier loved country music and was a fitness fanatic who had worked as a personal trainer. Cirillo had dreamed of serving his country since he was a teenager. He became a cadet when he was just 13 and joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders about five years ago. ‘He always had a smile on his face,’ his friend Peter DiBussolo told The Ottawa Citizen. ‘He was always walking around giving people handshakes, introducing people to himself.’ In addition to his young son, who’s now without a father, Cirillo leaves behind his two German shepherds.
Photos on his Instagram account show Cirillo cuddling a number of rescued dogs and spending time with his six-year-old son Marcus, who has just started kindergarten. On a Facebook memorial page, set up just hours after Cirillo’s death, friends and loved ones recounted stories of his kindness. One described an incident where she had traveled to Hamilton for a night out with friends but they were unable to meet her – but Cirillo was there. ‘Nathan stayed in downtown after he had finished with the army and waited for me even though it was snowing and well below 0C and my bus was over an hour late,’ Megan Newman wrote. ‘He stood at the station and waited and took me home, he even had a coffee in his hand for me. He was a true stand-up guy, who lived for his son and family also the military. He will be a big miss.’
At a press conference, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud told reporters: ‘Our thoughts are with the member and the members of his family at this time.’ Nathan’s uncle Jim Cirillo told reporters from a home in Hamilton that the soldier’s mother is in total shock. ‘She’s saying she doesn’t believe it,’ he told CBC. ‘She went on the internet and she saw it and she…I don’t know how she didn’t pass out. She’s just completely broken, broken right now.’ Kathy will now likely take care of Cirillo’s kindergarten age son Marcus, as the boy’s mother Kendra is no longer in the picture, CBC reported. He met Kendra as a teenager at the Ancaster Fair in Jerseyville after he was kicked out for not paying to get in. Outside he met Kendra and a friend, who asked for a ride home, Metro News reported.
Manager Billy Pozeg of Club Absinthe, where Cirillo worked as a bouncer, told CBC Cirillo often showed up straight from the armury in his fatigues. No matter how tired he was from back-to-back shifts, he lifted the mood of every room he entered, Pozeg said. According to Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina, who visited the distraught family, Nathan came from ‘a beautiful home. Clean as a whip. Pictures of Nathan and his two sisters on the wall. It was the kind of place that any of us would feel right at home going into.’ Bratina had made the rounds Wednesday, to the Cirillo family home and to the armory, with Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire. ‘It was very sad but there was some comfort in being with Chief De Caire, who has experience with dealing with sudden loss of life,’ Bratina said. ‘We had some hugs and tears.’ The horror began when a masked gunman killed a soldier standing guard at Canada’s war memorial Wednesday, then stormed Parliament in an attack that was stopped cold when he was shot to death by the ceremonial sergeant-at-arms. Canada’s prime minister called it the country’s second terrorist attack in three days. ‘We will not be intimidated. Canada will never be intimidated,’ Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed in an address to the nation.
Just moments after he gunned down Canadian Parliament shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, heroic sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers was seen calmly walking through the halls, gun in hand. The 58-year-old RCMP veteran has been hailed a hero after putting a swift stop to the attacker’s hail of gunfire after he shot dead a soldier and then stormed the building on Wednesday morning. A CBC News still shows Vickers holding the gun and walking through the House of Commons’ moments after taking down the assailant. Vickers has been the House of Commons’ head of security since 2005 and will now go down in history as one of its most memorable after he bravely pursued and took down Zehaf-Bibeau.
Despite working for the RCMP for three decades, relatives said the incident was the first time in his career that Vickers had ever shot anyone. Riveting video taken inside Ottawa’s House of Commons makes startlingly real just how heart-thumpingly dangerous the situation was that Vickers heroically diffused. A rush of armed police can be seen running toward an unseen suspect as the video from Globe and Mail opens. At the head of the pack is a man moving swiftly with his gun in hand toward Zehaf-Bibeau, who had moments before murdered a reservist who stood guard at Canada’s Tomb of the Unknown soldier. The death of that man, a 24-year-old father of a young son, Nathan Cirillo, would soon be avenged as Vickers takes aim inside the cavernous parliamentary building and fires off multiple shots.
As those shots echo throughout the hall, the video goes wobbly as the men behind their leader Vickers move for cover. And like that, it was over. Vickers had brought to a close the terrifying scene of senseless violence in mere moments of professional poise. ‘MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs’ caucus rooms,’ tweeted New Democrat MP Craig Scott. Matt Miller, the Vancouver Observer’s parliamentary bureau chief, concurred. ‘Kevin is definitely a hero,’ Miller told CNN. Vickers has honed his peacekeeping skills over a prestigious 28-year career as a member Royal Canadian Mounted Police. And peacekeeping is the word. According to his brother, Wednesday’s showdown was Vickers’ first exchange of gunfire with a suspect in his nearly three-decade long career. ‘For it now to happen at Parliament … is unbelievable,’ John Vickers told CNN. ‘We’re just relieved he’s OK.’
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, the Muslim convert who fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo – a 24-year-old father standing guard at Ottawa’s War Memorial, was a petty criminal and the son of a leading Canadian immigration official, it has been revealed. 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. 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 of 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.