Ottawa shooting suspect Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had 'very developed criminality'
Published Thursday, October 23, 2014 8:38AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 23, 2014 9:22PM EDT
The man shot dead on Parliament Hill after killing a Canadian reservist at the National War Memorial had a “very developed” criminality, but did not set off any alarm bells when it came to national security, the RCMP said Thursday.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had a history of “violence, drugs and mental instability” before he killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and stormed inside Parliament’s Centre Block Wednesday.
Although police are now investigating Zehaf-Bibeau’s “radicalization process,” the 32-year-old was not on the list of so-called “high-risk travellers” being tracked by the government, Paulson said Thursday.
Zehaf-Bibeau had applied for a passport, but his application was under investigation and police were doing background checks, Paulson said.
“The RCMP did not possess information at that time that would reveal any national security related criminality,” Paulson said.
Although it’s not exactly clear what motivated Wednesday’s attacks in Ottawa, Paulson said the “passport issue was central to what was driving” Zehaf-Bibeau.
A man who was staying at the same downtown Ottawa shelter as Zehaf-Bibeau said the suspect had told him that he wanted to get his passport, “get out of this country” and seek treatment for his drug addiction.
When Zehaf-Bibeau initially applied for a passport, it seemed that he had wanted to travel to Libya, Paulson said. But his mother told investigators Wednesday that her son wanted to go to Syria.
Zehaf-Bibeau’s father is Libyan and his mother is Canadian. He may have had dual Canadian-Libyan citizenship, Paulson said.
The RCMP are also investigating how Zehaf-Bibeau obtained the rifle used in Wednesday’s shootings. He was legally prohibited from possessing firearms.
The beige car Zehaf-Bibeau used on Wednesday was purchased the day before, Paulson said.
Paulson said the suspect had “intentions” for the car. “What those were, we aren’t sharing.”
A resident at the Ottawa Mission shelter, where Zehaf-Bibeau was staying, told CTV News that the suspect was “suffering from drug addiction” and came to Ottawa from Vancouver.
Abubakir Abdel Kareem said Zehaf-Bibeau seemed exhausted and sleepy and he sometimes talked about “extremist” ideas.
Another man at the shelter, Joseph MacDonald, said he would see Zehaf-Bibeau there in the mornings, “walking up and down the hallways.”
The suspect kept to himself and didn’t say much to others, MacDonald said, adding that he saw him at the shelter the day before the shootings.
A ‘good upbringing’
By all accounts, Zehaf-Bibeau seemed to have had a typical upbringing before becoming involved in a string of crimes.
He was born in Canada in 1982, and raised in Montreal and Laval. Que. His mother, Susan Bibeau, splits her time between Ottawa and Montreal and works as the deputy chairperson of the Immigration Committee at the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada.
His father is a Libyan businessman named Bulgasem Zehaf who once owned Café Tripoli on Montreal's popular Crescent Street.
Janice Parnell lived across from Zehaf-Bibeau's family when he was a teenager. She told CTV Montreal that Zehaf-Bibeau went to a private high school and was involved in typical teenage rowdiness, often playing loud music.
Bibeau's mother was "very caring, a very involved parent," Parnell said, as was his father, she said.
"The boy seemed to have a very good upbringing," she told CTV Montreal.
Susan Bibeau has not appeared publicly since the attacks, but spoke briefly with The Associated Press by telephone Thursday. She said she did not know what to say to those hurt in the attack.
"Can you ever explain something like this?" she said tearfully. "We are sorry."
In an email to AP, Bibeau said she spoke with her son over lunch last week, but had not seen him for more than five years before that.
"So I have very little insight to offer,” she wrote.
In his 20s, Zehaf-Bibeau acquired a lengthy criminal record, with 12 convictions in Quebec between 2001 and 2011 for crimes including drug possession, impaired driving, weapons offences, assault causing bodily harm, theft, and possession of break-in tools.
The Canadian Press reports that, in Quebec criminal records, he appears under three names: Michael Bibeau, Michael Zehaf Bibeau and Michael Bibeau Zehaf.
Zehaf-Bibeau does not have a criminal record in Ontario. However, he was charged with mischief under $5,000 and failing to appear on a promise to appear/recognizance in 2003 in L'Orignal, Ont. Both charges were withdrawn in 2010.
Zehaf-Bibeau was also charged with robbery in Vancouver in 2011. He was convicted on a lesser charge of uttering threats. Zehaf-Bibeau underwent a psychiatric assessment prior to that conviction and was found fit to stand trial, records show.
Records seem to indicate that Zehaf-Bibeau wanted to be incarcerated. CTV Vancouver reports that he claimed to have committed an armed robbery in Quebec 10 years prior, although an officer in B.C. could find no record of the crime.
Zehaf-Bibeau then attempted to rob a Vancouver McDonalds with a pointed stick, according to audio recordings provided to CTV Vancouver.
Court documents show that Zehaf-Bibeau wanted to be in jail “as he believes this is the only way he can overcome his addiction to crack cocaine,” according to a psychiatrist.
The same document says Zehaf-Bibeau didn’t seem to have a mental illness and described him as a “devoted Muslim for seven years.”
Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson said Thursday that Zehaf-Bibeau had ties to the city and police there “want to know everything about him.
“He would have had a very low profile,” Hanson said. “Nothing to put him on our radar screen.”