|MONTREAL - A young man in a black trench coat and a mohawk haircut opened fire Wednesday at a Montreal college, slaying a woman and wounding at least 19 other people before police shot and killed him, witnesses and authorities said. ADVERTISEMENT
Police dismissed suggestions that terrorism played a role in the lunch-hour attack at downtown Dawson College, where scores of panicked students fled into the streets after the shooting began. Some had clothes stained with blood; others cried and clung to each other. Two nearby shopping centers and a daycare center also were evacuated and subway service was disrupted.
"I was terrified. The guy was shooting at people randomly. He didn't care, he was just shooting at everybody," said student Devansh Smri Vastava. "There were cops firing. It was so crazy."
Police said the 25-year-old attacker had a rapid-fire rifle and two other weapons, which they did not further describe.
Witnesses said he started firing outside the college before walking in the front door. Much of the shooting was in the second-floor cafeteria, where students dropped to the floor and lay in terror. At times the gunman hid behind vending machines before emerging to take aim — at one point at a teenager who tried to photograph him with his cell phone. Teachers ran through the halls, telling everyone to get out of the building.
Montreal Police Chief Yvan Delorme said the attacker was shooting haphazardly at no target in particular, until he saw the police and took aim at them.
Police hid behind a wall as they exchanged fire with the gunman, whose back was against a vending machine, said student Andrea Barone, who was in the cafeteria. He said the officers proceeded cautiously because many students were trapped around the assailant, who yelled "Get back! Get back!" every time an officer tried to move closer.
Eventually, Barone said, the gunman went down in hail of gunfire.
Delorme said some officers had already been at the school on an unrelated matter when the shooting erupted. He said reinforcements rushed to the scene and took part in the shooting.
Police Sgt. Francois Dore said that the attacker was from the Montreal area, but he did not provide a name or any further details. Dore said his car was still at the school and police were searching his apartment.
Although police initially suggested the gunman had killed himself, Delorme later said at a news conference that "based on current information, the suspect was killed by police."
Police with guns drawn stood behind a police cruiser as a SWAT team swarmed the 12-acre campus. Delorme said later that "there was only one suspect on site, he was not assisted by someone else."
Montreal General Hospital said 11 people were admitted, including eight who were in critical condition. Nine others were taken to two other hospitals. One young woman later died, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the victim's next-of-kin had not yet been notified.
"Today we have witnessed a cowardly and senseless act of violence unfold at Montreal's Dawson College," Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. "Our primary concern right now is to ensure the safety and recovery of all those who were injured during this tragedy." The school was closed until Monday.
The shooting recalled the 1999 attack at Columbine High School in Colorado, where two students wearing trench coats killed 13 people before committing suicide.
Canada's worst mass shooting also happened in Montreal. Gunman Marc Lepine killed 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnic on Dec. 6, 1989, before shooting himself.
The 25-year-old Lepine roamed the halls of the school firing a rifle, specifically targeting women whom he claimed in a suicide note had ruined his life. Nine other women and four men were wounded.
That shooting spurred efforts for new gun laws and greater awareness of societal violence — particularly domestic abuse. Canada's tighter gun law was achieved mainly as the results of efforts by survivors and relatives of Lepine's victims.
Dawson is more of a pre-college division than a traditional university. It was the first English-language institution in Quebec's network of university preparatory colleges when it was founded in 1969. With about 10,000 students, it is the largest college of general and vocational education, known by its French acronym CEGEP, in the province.
Witnesses to Wednesday's attack said a man wearing a black trench coat entered the school cafeteria and opened fire without uttering a word.
Derick Osei, 19, said he was walking down the stairs to the cafeteria when he saw a man with a gun.
"He ... just started shooting up the place. I ran up to the third floor and I looked down and he was still shooting," Osei said. "He was hiding behind the vending machines and he came out with a gun and started pointing and pointed at me. So I ran up the stairs. I saw a girl get shot in the leg."
Osei said people in the cafeteria were all lying on the floor.
"I saw the gunman who was dressed in black and at that time he was shooting at people," student Michel Boyer told CTV. "I immediately hit the floor. It was probably one of the most frightening moments of my life."
"He was shooting randomly, I didn't know what he was shooting at, but everyone was screaming, Get out of the building!" Boyer said. "Everybody was in tears. Everybody was so worried for their own safety for their own lives."
Raamias Hernandez, 19, said he had just finished his class when he saw everyone start to run.
He said the gunman was dressed in a black jacket and had a mohawk haircut. Hernandez said he started to take pictures with his cell phone with his friend and the suspect saw them and started shooting.
Vastava said he saw a man in military fatigues with "a big rifle" storm the cafeteria.
"He just started shooting at people," Vastava said, adding that he heard about 20 shots fired. He also said teachers ran through the halls telling students to get out. "We all ran upstairs."
Barone, 17, said he was sitting in the cafeteria with his girlfriend and some friends when he heard some shots.
"At first I thought it was a firecracker," he said. "Then I turned around and I saw him. He was dressed in a black trench coat and I saw his hand firing a handgun in every direction."
Barone said a police officer emerged from a corner next to the cafeteria and fired a shot in the direction of the gunman no more than several yards away and missed him. Five or six more police officers showed up, he said. Barone said it was like a running battle with five or six shots fired in both directions every minute.
After police eventually killed the gunman, the officers helped the students leave the cafeteria, crawling out on their bellies along a wall.
Barone said as they were crawling out toward an exit they saw a girl who had been shot in the torso and who was face down surrounded by a pool of blood.
He said officers told them: "Don't look, don't look. Keep going out."
This is leading the world no where. No where is safe of the stupid terrorists.
What the hell was he thinking. Killing someone who is an innocent person