Quebec mosque shooting survivor describes life after being shot 7 times
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, April 17, 2018 11:05AM EDT
After he was shot seven times during a deadly mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque in early 2017, Aymen Derbali’s wife had to decide whether to take her husband off of life support.
She chose to keep him alive.
Now, more than a year later, Derbali was able to testify at the sentencing hearing for the man responsible for killing six Muslim men and wounding six others during evening prayer at the city’s Islamic Cultural Centre.
In March, Alexandre Bissonnette, 28, entered not guilty pleas for the charges but then changed his mind and pleaded guilty to six charges of first-degree murder and six of attempted murder in the shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre on Jan. 29, 2017.
As he sat in his wheelchair during his victim-impact statement on Monday, Derbali told the court about the bullet still lodged in his spine – too dangerous for doctors to remove. He spoke about his paralysis and what it was like to lose the use of his legs. He explained how his injuries prevent him from holding his three children and how he still suffers recurring nightmares from that night. He recalled the anguish he felt when he awoke from his coma to learn that six other men had died in the attack.
Despite the difficulty in reliving those moments, Derbali said that he thought it was important for him to be there to share his story at the hearing. The 41-year-old asked the judge to consider the consequences of Bissonnette’s actions in his sentence. He also said he doesn’t believe Bissonnette was sincere when he expressed remorse for the shooting in a letter he read to the court after he pleaded guilty.
Earlier on Monday, the court heard from a prison social worker who testified that Bissonnette had told her in September 2017 that he wished there had been more victims that night.
“I regret not having killed more people,” Bissonnette reportedly said. “The victims are in the sky and I’m living in hell.”
The contents of Bissonnette’s laptop and his internet search history leading up to the attack were also revealed in court on Monday. He repeatedly looked up mass shootings online and sought information about other mass shooters including Dylann Roof, who shot nine worshippers in a church in South Carolina, and Marc Lepine, who was responsible for Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique massacre in 1989. His other search topics included Donald Trump, firearms, right wing commentators, white supremacist leaders, Islam, feminists, and the Islamic State terrorist group.
On the day of the attack, Bissonnette visited the Quebec City mosque’s website 12 times before the shooting.
Bissonnette could be given up to 150 years in prison in consecutive sentences, but his legal team hopes that he will be able to serve the sentences concurrently, which would make him eligible for parole after 25 years.
The court is expected to hear from more victims and the sentencing hearing could take up to three weeks.
With files from CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press