OTTAWA, Canada — What would spur someone to walk up to a war memorial, fatally shoot a soldier guarding it, then rush into Canada’s Parliament and open fire?
The shooter, identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, may have taken the answer to his grave when he himself was shot dead before he could seriously hurt anyone inside the Parliament building.
Yet, bit by bit, we’re learning about Zehaf-Bibeau, a man with a criminal record and, according to a friend, an unstable mind.
A man who seemed to have had a religious awakening and talked about going to the Middle East — but had his passport revoked.
A man who shot a soldier in the back as he stood guard at Canada’s National War Memorial., and who then tried to wreak havoc inside the parliament building before he was gunned down.
“In the days to come, we will learn more about the terrorist and any accomplices he may have had, but this week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere in the world,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said.
Here’s what we know so far about Michael Zehaf-Bibeau:
He was a convert to Islam
He was born Michael Joseph Hall in Quebec in 1982, and, according to Canadian media reports, worked as a miner and a laborer at various points in his life.
It isn’t clear when or why, but at some point he changed his name to Zehaf-Bibeau and converted to Islam, U.S. officials said.
He apparently had a good upbringing
His father is a Quebec businessman and his mother works in Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board, according to the Globe and Mail newspaper. The parents are divorced.
“I know that the mother was very caring and a very involved parent. Actually both parents seem to have been,” Janice Parnell, a former neighbor, told CNN partner network CTV.
“The boy seemed to have had a very good upbringing. He had a good home base. He was involved in community things.”
He had a criminal record
Court documents obtained by CNN partner network CBC reveal Zehaf-Bibeau was charged with drug possession in Quebec in 2004. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
In 2011, he was charged with robbery and uttering threats in Vancouver, CBC reported. He was found guilty of only the second charge and sentenced to a day in jail.
Some found his behavior troubling
Zehaf-Bibeau was asked to stop attending prayers at the mosque he attended because elders found his behavior “erratic,” a friend told the Globe and Mail.
The friend, Dave Bathurst, said Zehaf-Bibeau once told him the “devil is after him,” and frequently talked about supernatural spirits.
“I think he must have been mentally ill,” Bathurst told the paper.
He had his passport revoked
Zehaf-Bibeau spoke of wanting to go to the Middle East to study. Bathurst, the friend, told the Globe and Mail that he “urged his friend to make sure study was on his mind and not something else.”
Canadian authorities think Zehaf-Bibeau had other motives.
Recently, they confiscated his passport after learning of his plans to go fight overseas, a U.S. law enforcement official said.
When asked what direct link Zehaf-Bibeau may have had to terrorism, the official said authorities were trying to answer that question.
He visited the U.S. at least four times
U.S. law enforcement officials are tracing back Michael Zehaf-Bibeau’s travel to the United States and interviewing people with whom he came into contact, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the investigation. He visited at least four times, most recently in 2013, the official said. There’s no reason to believe he’s connected to any extremists in the United States, the official said.
He is believed to have acted alone
All day Wednesday, Canadian officials vacillated back and forth on whether Zehaf-Bibeau acted alone. By Wednesday night, they settled on the answer: yes.
“It appears there was just one shooter and that shooter is dead,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
A U.S. law enforcement official told CNN that a connection to terrorism hasn’t been ruled out.
On Monday, a man who Canadian authorities said was “radicalized” killed a Canadian soldier with his car. The man was then shot and killed.
There was no immediate indication that the Monday and Wednesday incidents were related.