What we know so far about the mosque shooting suspect
The lone suspect in the Quebec City mosque shooting appeared to enjoy playing chess, birding and listening to pop singer Katy Perry according to his Facebook profile. His “liked” Facebook groups also indicated the 27-year-old man from a Quebec City suburb was a fan of U.S. President Donald Trump, right-wing French nationalist leader Marine Le Pen and the separatist Parti Québécois political party.
On Monday, Alexandre Bissonnette was charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder for the Sunday night shooting spree in a Quebec City mosque that left six dead and 19 wounded. So what do we know about the man accused of carrying out a horrific attack that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described as “a despicable act of terror”?
• He is 27-years-old and hails from Cap-Rouge, a borough of Quebec City.
• The Department of National Defense has confirmed that Bissonnette was a cadet between 2002 and 2004 in the Quebec City area. Cadets are not members of the Canadian Armed Forces and they do not receive military training. The national program focuses on developing leadership and citizenship skills as well as physical fitness.
• Laval University, a French-language public university in Quebec City, has confirmed that Bissonnette was a student in the institution’s Faculty of Social Sciences. Laval’s online student directory shows that Bissonnette was completing an undergraduate degree in political science. The school declared that he has been banned from all studies or research activities until the court process is completed.
• An archived version of a since-deleted Facebook profile that appears to be Bissonnette’s shows that he “liked” a diverse array of pages, from those belonging to U.S. President Donald Trump, divisive right-wing French nationalist Marine Le Pen, the separatist Parti Québécois political party, the Israel Defense Force, and scholars that have been critical towards religion, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, to other more seemingly innocuous pages, such as those dedicated to pop singer Katy Perry, actor Tom Hanks and science fiction pioneer H.G. Wells. Bissonnete also liked the Facebook groups of the federal NDP Party and its former leader Jack Layton.
• Bissonnette appeared to have an interest in birding as well as playing chess according to photos and posts he shared on the social media site. He posted numerous selfies, often unsmiling, and seemed to like sharing nostalgic family photos from his childhood.
• According to a Facebook community called “Welcome to refugees – Quebec City,” Bissonnette allegedly made nationalist, xenophobic, and anti-feminist posts both at university and online. Francois Deschamps, who runs the group, posted a statement about Bissonnette: "It's with pain and anger that we learn the identity of terrorist Alexandre Bissonnette, unfortunately known to many activists in Quebec for taking nationalist, pro-Le Pen and anti-feminist positions at Laval University and on social media.”
• One of Bissonnette’s childhood friends, Vincent Boissoneault, said the description of his former friend as an “internet troll” was accurate.“Certainly he liked to confront people online,” he explained. “It didn’t seem particularly violent."
• Bissonnette had a YouTube channel where he posted short videos, including one of a beach scene, another showing a fireplace and footage of a waterfall in winter. In the longest video, he told the camera that he was planning to perform a “modified” version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, although he did not explain what he planned to do instead of dump icy water on his head. “Around 350 million people have no access to water in the world and every year about 3.5 million of those people actually die,” he said in the video, in which he smirks at the end. “I support the fight against this terrible disease,” he adds, “(but) I think we should not forget the fact that … this is wasting water.”
• Hema-Quebec, which manages the province’s blood supply, has confirmed that Bissonnette was one if its employees. “As an organization whose primary mission is dedicated to the gift of life, these events have sent a shock wave through the organization,” the non-profit said in a prepared statement.
• The U.S.-based Site Intelligence Group, which monitors the online activity of jihadist organizations and white supremacists, said it was “unlikely” that Bissonnette had any ties to jihadi groups based on his social media profile, The Canadian Press reported.
• According to neighbour Rosalie Bussieres, Bissonnette has a twin brother. “They were always with each other,” Bussieres told CTV Montreal. “No friends -- it’s sad. They were always at home, alone.” Over the summer, Bissonnette had moved out of the family home into an apartment with his twin brother. The apartment was just blocks away from the mosque. Neighbours described the brothers to CTV News’ Vanessa Lee as being “polite introverts who kept to themselves.” Another neighbour said he occasionally heard a piano playing classical music from the Bissonnettes’ apartment.
• Bussieres said she was shocked by the incident because Bissonnette’s parents always seemed to be “good parents.” Another friend who grew up with Bissonnette told Lee that his childhood friend was “kind-hearted and courteous” and not a “hateful” person.
• Another close childhood friend of Bissonnette’s, Toma Popescu, told CTV Montreal on Tuesday that he had kept in touch with him up until about a year ago. Popescu said that he was shocked something like this could have happened but he wasn’t that surprised when he saw the photos of Bissonnette circulating after the attack. He described him as someone with “unusual” tastes who was bullied in school. "He was an outsider that’s for sure. He dressed differently. He behaved differently and people didn’t seem to understand the way he was at that time,” Popescu said.
• Other childhood friends said that Bissonnette had an interest in hunting growing up but they didn’t know if he had any recent associations with a local gun club or how he might have possessed a weapon.
• Bissonnette’s Facebook profile offered few clues as to a potential motive for the alleged attack. He did, however, post a favourite quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Plato that may shed some light on his personal beliefs.
"For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories."
With files from CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press