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Mayhem and murder on Montreal campus, again
Cat : Chez Les Autres
Date : 2006-09-14 14:42:51                      Reader : 391

Google News 14/9/2006

 Mayhem and murder on Montreal campus, again


Montreal gunman identified

Kimveer Gill stormed into the school with a scowl on his face and an automatic weapon in his hands

The crack of gunfire from an assault weapon, a stalker in a long black trench coat, students fleeing in terror, blood splatter on the sidewalk and cafeteria floor.

We've been here before. And couldn't stop it from happening again.

Mayhem and murder on a Canadian campus. A lone gunman, random rat-a-tat blasting, scores of potential victims in the shooter's crosshairs.

The gunman stormed into the school over the lunch hour, with a scowl on his face and an automatic weapon in his hands.

Yet there was somewhat of a miracle in Montreal yesterday too: From the spray of lead, just one person slain and the gunman himself, stopped dead in his tracks apparently by a police officer who was among the first to arrive at the chaotic scene at Dawson College.

La Presse last night identified the gunman as Kimveer Gill, 25, of Laval.

The slain woman was identified as Anastacia DeSousa, 22.

Earlier in the day, DeSousa's panicked aunt arrived at the emergency department of Montreal General Hospital, pleading for help from the media in finding her niece, a first-year student at Dawson.

"She was put in an ambulance, now she can't be found," said Natalia Hevey.

She said her mother saw her niece being loaded on an ambulance on television, reportedly having been shot in the arm. "That's the last we saw of her."

Late last night, Montreal police searched the Laval family home of Gill, whose black Pontiac Sunfire was found parked near the school.

The Star found a website last night for a 25-year-old Goth freak who identified by the single name "Kimveer" in which he muses — shadows of the Columbine high school shootings — with banal disaffectedness.

"Work sucks ... school sucks ... life sucks ... what else can I say?

"Metal and Goth kick ass. Life is a video game, you've got to die sometime."

What numerous witnesses saw yesterday was a shootout in front of the cafeteria vending machine, bullets that missed, petrified students in the line of fire and, finally, one mortally wounded menace.

There were 19 injured, at least eight critically, five rushed into surgery at Montreal General Hospital with gunshot wounds to the abdomen and the chest. Of the 11 injured victims taken to Montreal General, six are women and five are men. Other injured were taken to two other hospitals. Some of the injured were hit in the limbs, untold more psychologically traumatized by the violence that exploded without warning shortly before 1 p.m.

Bystanders, over and over, described seeing a man wearing a Goth-style overcoat, combat boots, with a Mohawk haircut, studded with body-piercings — walking purposefully toward the school as students milled about outside, carrying what seemed to be an automatic rifle, and abruptly opening fire before continuing, barely breaking stride, into the second-floor atrium cafeteria, ordering those inside to get down on the floor, and then shooting upon them without mercy.

He had, La Presse reports, parked his car close to the college, opened the trunk and removed: a 9-mm semi-automatic rifle, a .45 pistol and a bag containing a 12-calibre gun that can shoot four bullets per shot.

What happened next was so eerily reminiscent of that shocking episode in Montreal 17 years ago when 14 women were slaughtered at L'École Polytechnique by Marc Lépine, who then turned the gun on himself. If this assailant intended the same thing, to take his own life after the horrific deed, it seems he never got the chance — brought down, witnesses say, even as he wielded his weapon and shouted at cops with guns drawn to stay back, stay away.

Yelling at them, according to student witness Nikola Guidi, as reported by the Montreal Gazette: "Get the fuck away from here!"

It is not definitive, and won't be until an autopsy and forensic tests are conducted, that an officer's gun extinguished the murderer's life. But it was this body that was later dragged from the building, leaving a trail of blood. From across the road, office workers reported a limp man, dressed in black, being pulled across the pavement. Police slapped handcuffs on him, but the man never moved. A yellow tarp was later thrown over the body and it remained there for a long time.

Montreal Police Chief Yvan Delorme told a news conference late last night that a change in tactics probably helped avert more injuries.

A few years ago, the first police on the scene would have set up a perimeter and awaited the arrival of the SWAT team. Now they are trained to go in and deal with the problem themselves, Delorme said.

The officers who first arrived at the scene heard gunshots, saw the suspect and followed him into the school, he said. There was a confrontation in the atrium and a Montreal officer shot the gunman.

"Today, the policemen on the scene took the right decision," said Delorme, of officers who acted without waiting for the SWAT team to arrive. "The way they acted saved lives."

Police say the first officers involved had actually been on the scene already, two of them writing up notes about a small drug seizure.

There does not appear to be any connecting thread, any common denominator among those shot, save for their fateful presence at a sprawling downtown post-secondary school when a man — purportedly young and cold-faced — with motives as yet unknown, decided to embark on a rampage. There is no evidence, authorities were quick to emphasize, that the shootings were racially or ethnically inspired. The act bore no terrorist imprint.

One man with an undetermined rage and three lethal weapons. He never reloaded.

"Based on current information, the suspect was killed by the police," said Delorme, who would provide no further details, including whether the shooter was a student at the school, although it was palpably obvious police knew precious little themselves.

Even as officials insisted there were no other suspects, heavily armed SWAT teams continued combing through the school for hours afterward, looking not just for students still cowering in classrooms — some, reportedly, were trapped in the basement when doors automatically locked after the alarm was raised — but also, obviously, any lingering threat. Initially, police were looking for up to three suspects.

"I can confirm that there are no other suspects," another police spokesperson told reporters in late afternoon. "We don't know anything about the motive of the suspect."

SWAT teams began pulling out around 7:30 p.m., but the building was still in lockdown and residents from the area were only beginning to be allowed through to their homes.

So this would be the diabolical handiwork of just one individual, perhaps a misfit or isolated social incompetent, based on investigations of past school shooting incidents, which have become a modern phenomenon in North America.

Zach Boucher, 17, was hanging out with some friends outside the Maisonneuve St. entrance to Dawson College — which has an enrolment of 7,500, an estimated 3,000 of whom were present yesterday — when he heard a gunshot and saw a young male with what he described as a Mohawk hairdo, black trench coat and combat boots walk toward the school firing a gun.

"Shot after shot after shot," Boucher, who attends a nearby colleague and was visiting Dawson friends, told the Star. "Once one went, then another one went and another one went."

He saw another girl get shot in the arm.

Boucher ran behind a police cruiser for cover.

From there, he saw the gunman walk into the school and three police officers follow him with their guns drawn, telling him to drop his weapon.

One officer, standing by the scout car, told Boucher to get as far away from there as he could. Boucher ran to a shopping mall across the street.

Kenny Roljeha was on lunch break in the mall when he heard shots being fired.

"I looked across the street and I saw someone who was on the ground outside and was bleeding from the arm or chest and then I saw the shooter run into the college," he told the Star.

Inside, the shooter ran through the college's second-floor atrium, an area of tables and chairs where students congregate during breaks.

A school janitor said he saw a police officer on the third floor being fired at from the second floor. Police had arrived at 12:44, three minutes after the shooting outside was first reported.

An 18-year-old student said his friend had been shot by the gunman.

"I turn around and my friend is shot," said the student, who did not want to give his name.

With his friend shot in the shoulder and leaning against a wall, this student called for an ambulance.

"He was leaning and wobbling; he was falling down, so I'm like `forget it, I'm going to go get him.'"

That victim was, last night, listed in critical condition.

Ali Aline, 21, recounted to the Star that she and a friend were sitting on a bench outside, smoking, when they were suddenly shot at.

"We didn't see the gunman," said Aline.

One of her friends, whose name she wouldn't provide, was hit in the stomach and the other in the leg. One of them, Aline reported shortly before 7 p.m., was already out of surgery.

"I was terrified and scared. It reminded me of the previous death of a friend six months ago."

During the shooting, students hid behind furniture and held on to each other. Many tried to make cellphone calls but cellular traffic was so heavy by then that little was getting through. Parents, unable to reach their kids as news of the shooting erupted, flooded police for information and descended with dread upon hospital emergency rooms.

One distraught witness told the CBC she, too, was outside smoking when she saw a tall white man wearing a long trenchcoat walk down the street carrying a large gun. He was, the young woman said, in the company of several other young people. She described him as about 19 years of age, with body piercings and studded clothing. He fired a number of times before going inside the school. "He shot the people right next to us. We were hiding in the bushes and there was debris flying ..."

Sehr Marous said he and his friend Marie were just coming out of the college when they noticed a man holding a gun with both hands.

"He opened fire — pap! pap! pap! He ran after us, he was metres behind us. There was chaos. Everybody was running and screaming."

At first, Marous said, he thought the weapon was merely a paint gun and hadn't panicked. "I wouldn't have run if my friend wasn't beside me. I thought she was overreacting. Now I feel like an idiot."

Ali Hussein told CTV that one bullet struck the wall close to where he was standing. "He shot right at us. And when he shot at us, we jumped and ran the other way."

Another student told Montreal radio station 940 News that she practically ran straight into the gunman after — while on the phone — hearing five shots and then the sound of glass breaking. Confused, she walked into the hallway. "All of a sudden I turned around and saw a man dressed in black with a huge assault rifle. People didn't know what was going on. ... They thought it was a joke."

The man then ran into the corner of the cafeteria to hide from police, she added.

Nineteen-year-old Razvan, who didn't want to give his last name, told the Star that he and three friends were sitting in the cafeteria on the second floor — but not at their usual table by the door because it was already full.

About 1 p.m., he said, a white male with spiky blond hair, wearing a long black trench coat, quickly walked into the cafeteria and reached into his jacket for what looked like a shotgun.

That's when the gunman opened fire.

"I thought they were fireworks or something," Razvan said.

The gunman shot a male at Razvan's usual table — hitting him in the stomach and leg — before Razvan and his friends scrambled behind a wall with about 50 others, waiting there for between 20 and 30 minutes.

"I was lucky because that's the table where we usually sit at," he said. "We were praying he didn't come for us."

Ben Croll, a 19-year-old student at the English-language college, said he was sitting in art history class on the third floor, the classroom's windows overlooking the entrance where the shooter went into the school.

"We could hear the gunshot and immediately raced to the window," Croll told the Star.

Nobody was sure of what exactly had happened, so Croll's teacher told the students to take a 15-minute break.

"We thought the coast was clear and started walking out of the classroom and as we were in the hallway we heard gunshots — from within the school," Croll said, adding the sound travelled up from the second floor through the stairwell.

He and his classmates spent about eight minutes on the stairwell between the third and fourth floors and then were ushered into a large art studio, which had a window overlooking the scene from the street, where shooting victims were being loaded into ambulances.

One girl recognized a friend among the victims, Croll said, but was relieved to see the white bandage around his head did not have any blood on it. The young man was talking with emergency medical personnel.

"That was some silver living on a very grey cloud," said Croll.

Tensions soared, though, when a teacher entered the studio and told everyone to get away from the window and down on the floor, underneath the desks. "That was the one thing — moreso than the shots, more than anything else, actually trying proactively to stop yourself from being seen," said Croll of those helpless feelings. "That really freaked a lot of people out."

In the havoc outside, a teenage girl fell weeping into her mother's arms, just beyond the cordon tape. "He was going to shoot me," the girl sobbed. I was the closest to him, Mom. People were pushing me and he wouldn't stop shooting at us."

More than 2 1/2 hours after the shooting began, Andrew Galle was finally able to leave the building. He'd been locked up with five other students in the radio station, located on the second floor, just down the hall from where some of the shooting occurred.

"I was just down the hallway from the atrium,'' Galle, 19, told the Star. "I heard three or four shots and people running down the hallway yelling, `gun.' We heard a teacher say to close the door and not to get out."

English teacher Linda Dydyk and her colleague Matthew Taylor waited for 45 minutes in her third-floor office with a student who'd been slightly injured in the shooting. She said the student told her that the shooter had pointed the gun directly at him.

"Apparently, the police told him to run and he ducked," said Dydyk, speculating that the student had been grazed by a bullet.

"His arm had like a flesh wound that didn't stop bleeding and he had something in his face," she said. "Since his injury was not serious, we waited there. We called 9-1-1 and reported we had an injury. They came and got us when it was safe."

Some 400 students were taken to Concordia University's Hall building, a few blocks east, where they were assessed by grief counsellors, given food and warm blankets, while arrangements were made to get them home.

Much of the downtown core of Montreal had been cordoned off and the subway's green line closed. It reopened late in the afternoon but subway cars did not stop at the Atwater Station, which is connected to the college.

Dawson police say the school will be closed until at least Monday so that evidence can be gathered.

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