MONTREAL – Charges are expected soon in a shooting that may have targeted Quebec’s premier-in-waiting, an act that has sent shockwaves across Canada and elicited unflattering attention abroad.
Police are continuing to question the only suspect in Tuesday’s attack at a Parti Quebecois victory celebration. He was being evaluated at a Montreal hospital and a provincial police spokesman said he expects a court arraignment Thursday morning.
Police sources said the suspect is 62-year-old Richard Henry Bain, the owner of a fishing retreat in the picturesque Laurentian mountains north of Montreal. The suspect was wearing a housecoat and balaclava when he was tackled by police after two people were shot, one of whom died.
Police say they cannot rule out the possibility that premier-designate Pauline Marois was the shooter’s target. While the suspected gunman was only metres away, he never actually made it past the doorway into the room where Marois was speaking.
While he was being taken away into a police vehicle, Bain shouted an expletive and spoke of an awakening of English-speaking Quebecers.
Linguistic tensions had flared during an election campaign that featured PQ promises to extend language laws. But in her election night speech, when she spoke some English, and again at a news conference Wednesday, Marois pleaded for calm.
Marois urged people not to draw any political conclusions from the event.
She described it as an act of folly committed by someone who may be suffering from mental issues. And she defended her province’s reputation in the face of worldwide media coverage of the incident.
“Never, never will I accept that Quebec is associated with violence,” Marois told the news conference.
“It is an isolated event and it does not represent who we are… Quebec is not a violent society. One act of folly cannot change this.”
Marois says that she had no idea she might have been in danger when bodyguards whisked her off the stage during her victory speech and she says she only learned after leaving the partisan celebration that someone had died.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a statement saying he was “angered and saddened” by what he described as a horrific shooting. He said it was a “tragic day” whenever an exercise of democracy is met with an act of violence.
The prime minister’s initial phone call to Marois touched on the business of government but also on the shooting.
“(Harper) indicated that such acts of violence are inexcusable and have no place in Canada,” said a summary of the discussion, provided by the Prime Minister’s Office.
There was a moment of silence at an NDP retreat in St. John’s, N.L., and Tom Mulcair, the party leader, said his colleagues were in a state of shock.
The body of the victim was carried out from the crime scene Wednesday around noon, about a dozen hours after the shocking events. Authorities wheeled out the covered body of the 48-year-old man, which was carried onto a gurney and lifted it into a van.
The victim was identified by a police source as Denis Blanchette. Media reports said he was a sound technician who was working at the Metropolis club Tuesday night.
The second person shot, a 27-year-old, was operated on early Thursday and was listed in stable condition, the hospital said. He, like Blanchette, was working behind the scenes at the club.
A third person who had been treated for shock was released from hospital.
Around midnight, pandemonium swept over what had been a celebration for the newly elected PQ. The incident triggered the surreal scene of a victory speech by Marois being interrupted as she was dragged off the stage by bodyguards.
A gunman had tried to blast his way in by the back of the building, shooting two people before setting a fire at the exit.
Police initially said the shooting took place inside, because one of the victims was found there. Police now believe both victims were outside when the attack occurred and one of them was dragged back inside by bodyguards.
The area around the club was sectioned off with police tape. Investigators milled about the area, examining a GMC truck and gas canister believed to be linked to the attack.
The popular rock band The Offspring had been scheduled to play at the Metropolis on Wednesday but the concert was moved to another venue.
A vigil was planned in front of the site at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Montreal police said they’ll review whether more could have been done — but a senior officer said building vast security perimeters isn’t the solution.
“When an event like that happens we have to re-evaluate everything,” said Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere. “But we also have to keep a balance also.”
Police said they had seen no warning signs of an impending attack.
“We’re not finding any links to any threats,” said Lt. Guy Lapointe of the Quebec provincial police. “There was no phone calls, no prior warnings, so thus far the investigation hasn’t shown any links to any threats made.”
Lapointe said two weapons were seized at the scene, but he wouldn’t give specifics. During the incident, police confiscated a handgun and weapon that carried a resemblance to an AK-47 assault rifle.
Officials at the McGill University Health Centre confirmed, without identifying Bain by name, that a suspect had been transported under heavy guard to one of their hospitals for evaluation Wednesday. It was unclear whether he would remain in hospital into Thursday.
A Facebook page says a man named Richard Henry Bain runs a fishing lodge in La Conception, Que., near the resort of Mont-Tremblant. The website for the camp has been taken down.
A document from the local business association says Bain has been a member since last year. Police sources say he lived in Montreal until heading to the country.
Investigators can’t say whether Marois was a target but, because that possibility exists, the provincial force is taking over the investigation.
“At this point, we can’t establish whether or not, ultimately, the elected premier was a target,” Lapointe said. “We can’t push aside this theory so that’s what the (Quebec provincial police) is going to lead this investigation.”
Lapointe would not comment on any increased security arrangement for Marois but he added that police don’t believe she is in any danger.