Gun jams on active shooter in Montreal
Shooting that killed one person at a rally following the election of a separatist could have been much worse
By Phil Couvrette and Rob Gillies
MONTREAL — A Quebec police official said Thursday that the suspect's gun in a deadly shooting at a rally following the election of a separatist jammed after the initial shots were fired, suggesting that the shooting that killed one person could have been much worse.
Richard Henry Bain, 62, from La Conception, Quebec, was scheduled to appear in court Thursday morning after being accused of opening fire at a midnight victory rally Tuesday for Quebec's new separatist premier, killing one man and wounding another. A police official identified the suspect to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he has not been charged yet.
The official said Thursday that Bain's gun jammed after the first shots were fired.
Meanwhile, neighbors and acquaintances of the man said he was a friendly but often frustrated businessman who had overseen several failed ventures, but never had any public outbursts, leaving them to wonder how he could become the rambling masked man shown on television.
People who know Bain, the owner of a hunting and fishing resort 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Montreal, recalled his complaints about bureaucracy but could think of no political grievances he held. Quebec provincial police said the masked gunman wearing a bathrobe opened fire just outside the building where Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois was giving her victory speech just before midnight Tuesday.
The gunman was shown on television ranting and shouting "The English are waking up!" in French as police dragged him away.
The mayor of La Conception, Maurice Plouffe, said he was "very surprised" to hear Bain was tied to the shooting and said the images of the suspect being dragged away by police "were not easy to watch." Plouffe said Bain was sometimes frustrated in his dealings with the city after seeing a number of zoning requests were rebuffed, but added "I have never seen him become aggressive, he was quite normal."
A man full of ideas and proposals, Bain, however, seemed unlucky in his business ventures, with a number of unsuccessful projects.
"He had many projects but not many of them materialized," Plouffe said.
Marc-Andre Cyr, the owner of a campground near Bain's lodge, also said he was friendly and never showed any anger toward French-speaking Quebecers.
Cyr said they occasionally had a beer together. They always spoke French.
"He's someone I would meet from time to time," he said. "We never talked politics."
A list of members of the Mont Tremblant Chamber of Commerce describes Richard Bain as the owner of Les Activités Rick, which promotes itself as a major fly-fishing destination.
Marie-France Brisson, director general in the municipality of La Conception, said Bain frequently met with community officials, and dealt with them in French, not English, though it was broken French. He complained about bureaucratic obstacles, but there were no outbursts about language, she added.
Brisson said she had seen Bain in recent weeks and noticed no change in his usual demeanor.
The suspect was a heavy-set man wearing a black ski mask or balaclava, glasses and a blue bathrobe over a black shirt and black shorts. Police didn't identify what weapons he had, but camera footage showed a pistol and a rifle at the scene. Police said there is no reason to believe anyone else was involved.
Marois was whisked off the stage by guards and was not injured. She later called the shooting an isolated event and said it was probably a case of a person who has "serious health issues."
"I am deeply affected by this, but I have to go forward and assume my responsibilities," Quebec's first female premier said Wednesday, calling Quebec a non-violent society. "An act of folly cannot rid us of this reality."
The attack shocked Canadians who are not used to such violence at political events and have long worried that gun violence more often seen in the U.S. could become more common in their country.
Police said a 48-year-old man, later identified as Denis Blanchette, was pronounced dead at the scene and a 27-year-old man was wounded but would survive. A third man was treated for shock. The victims worked at production company Productions du Grand Bambou Inc, a person answering the phone at the Montreal company confirmed.
Friends of Blanchette, a lighting technician, packed a downtown Montreal street Wednesday night in a candlelight vigil outside the hall where he was killed.
It was not clear if the gunman was trying to shoot Marois, whose party favors separation from Canada for the French-speaking province.
Marois had just declared her firm conviction that Quebec needs to be a sovereign country when she was pulled off the stage.
"What's going on?" she asked her security detail. The crowd apparently was unaware of what had happened.
Police initially said the gunman made it into the building, but later said they believe he opened fire just outside in the back alley. The gunman then lit a small fire before he was captured, police said.
He didn't put up any resistance, said Lieut. Guy Lapointe of the provincial police.
Police had dealt with the suspect previously for a minor incident, Lapointe said.
Outgoing Liberal Premier Jean Charest, who announced he is stepping down as party leader after ruling Quebec for nearly a decade, said "Quebec has been struck directly in the heart" by the shooting.
The separatist Parti Quebecois party's victory is unlikely to signal a new push for independence. Opinion polls show little appetite for a separatist referendum. Previous referendums on separatism were rejected by voters in 1980 and 1995.
The last outbreak of major political violence in Quebec occurred in the 1970s, when Canadian soldiers were deployed after terrorist acts by a group seeking independence. Members of the militant FLQ kidnapped and killed Quebec's labor minister and later abducted, then freed, a British diplomat. The "October Crisis" was considered one of the darkest periods in modern Canadian history.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press