Sergeant-at-Arms hailed as hero for stopping Parliament Hill gunman
Kevin Michael Vickers, Canada's Sergeant-at-Arms, hailed the work of his security team after receiving a standing ovation on Thursday in the House of Commons for shooting a gunman at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Vickers said he is "grateful and proud" to be a part of the security team that took down suspected shooter Michael Zehaf-Bibeau on Wednesday. "Yesterday, during extraordinary circumstances, security personnel demonstrated professionalism and courage," Vickers said in a statement released Thursday afternoon. He also thanked Speaker of the House Andrew Scheer "for his leadership and calm demeanour throughout."
Vickers is credited with shooting Zehaf-Bibeau during a gunfight inside Parliament Hill. Zehaf-Bibeau entered the Hall of Honour at around 10 a.m. Wednesday after soldier Nathan Frank Cirillo was fatally shot at the National War Memorial just off Parliament property.
CTV’s Craig Oliver reported Zehaf-Bibeau was carrying a firearm when he walked into the building.
“Kevin Vickers came out of his office carrying a pistol, and apparently saw that he had a better shot, because the gunman had come in his direction,” Oliver reported, relaying a first-hand account from the scene.
Oliver said Vickers unloaded “a lot of shots,” killing Zehaf-Bibeau.
Vickers' younger brother John Vickers said he is relieved his brother is okay and not surprised at his actions.
"Kevin was always about the country and the community in which he served…When the time called for it and when the nation called him for service yesterday he responded," John told CTV's Canada AM on Thursday. "He knew what he had to do and I'm very proud of my big brother."
John said he was watching events unfold on TV in Victoria Wednesday morning when he heard his brother's name mentioned over and over again.
"The first thing was concern for his wellbeing and it was certainly a relief to know as the day progressed that he was okay," he said.
John hasn't spoken directly with Vickers since the incident, but said the Sergeant-at-Arms texted their other brother and spoke to their mother.
John said he thinks most people believe the Sergeant-at-Arms role is a ceremonial one, but Vickers has a long career in public service and oversees thousands of workers as head of Parliament security.
Vickers was a 29-year RCMP veteran when he took the position of director of security operations at the House of Commons in 2005.
As the Sergeant-at-Arms, Vickers is responsible for “safeguarding the authority of the House of Commons” and for “the safety and security of the Parliament buildings and their occupants, ensuring and controlling access to the House of Commons,” according to the government release announcing his appointment in 2006.
The 58-year-old has previously worked as an Aide-de-Camp for the Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, and has provided personal security for high-profile visitors like Queen Elizabeth and Prince Andrew.
Vickers has received several commendations throughout his career, including being recognized by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency for "outstanding contribution to drug enforcement."
According to Oliver, the security staff at Parliament Hill had been extensively trained for the scenario that unfolded Wednesday.
“They even have rehearsed how to hide behind the marble pillars you see at the top of the stairs and return fire,” he said. “That may have saved a lot of lives today.”
Several Members of Parliament thanked Vickers for his actions, including Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.
“MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms,” MP Craig Scott tweeted Wednesday.
Vickers deflected the praise toward the House of Common Security Services in his statement on Thursday.
He also offered his condolences to the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed while serving as an honour guard at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
"On behalf of all members of the House of Commons Security Services team, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo," Vickers said in the statement. "Our prayers are with you."
Vickers said his thoughts are also with Const. Samearn Son, a 10-year veteran of the HoC security staff, who was shot in the leg during the gun battle. Vickers said Son is in hospital and expected to make a full recovery.
Vickers' full statement is included below.
Statement from Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers
I am very touched by the attention directed at me following yesterday’s events. However, I have the support of a remarkable security team that is committed to ensuring the safety of Members, employees and visitors to the Hill. Yesterday, during extraordinary circumstances, security personnel demonstrated professionalism and courage. I am grateful and proud to be part of this team.
House of Commons Security Services also maintains a close working relationship with its security partners, including Senate Security, the RCMP and the Ottawa Police. This close collaboration made it possible to pull together and quickly restore order in the Parliamentary Precinct and throughout the downtown core.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Speaker, the Hon. Andrew Scheer, for his leadership and calm demeanour throughout.
On behalf of all members of the House of Commons Security Services team, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. Our prayers are with you. Our thoughts are also with Constable Samearn Son, who has been with the House of Commons Security Services for 10 years. Constable Son suffered a gun shot wound to the leg. He is in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.
As this is an ongoing investigation, I unfortunately cannot comment any further at this time, nor can any member of my Security Services team.