The attack on Parliament Hill’s Centre Block and the National War Memorial has left one Canadian soldier and one male suspect dead.
(Follow The Globe’s Ottawa staff on Twitter for updates on the Parliament Hill shootings)
Buildings in Ottawa’s downtown core are under lockdown after the crack of gunshots rang through the halls of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block and a gunman fired on soldiers guarding Canada’s main war memorial.
Ottawa police confirmed that they were investigating “several” shootings in downtown Ottawa. There are conflicting reports of how many shooters appear to be involved in the attack on the heart of Canada’s federal government.
Gunfire erupted at the National War Memorial, then moved to Parliament Hill. The Parliament Hill shooting was captured on this video by a Globe reporter. One Parliament Hill guard was shot in the leg and is recovering in hospital.
THE SHOOTING: FEDERAL BUILDINGS IN LOCKDOWN, POLICE ON ALERT
The outbreak of violence on Wednesday shortly before 10 a.m. (ET) sent MPs into hiding and all federal government buildings into lockdown.
Gunfire erupted at the National War Memorial and then moved to Centre Block.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper was with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino in a caucus meeting when the gunfire began, Mr. Fantino told the Toronto Sun Wednesday. Fantino credits a sergeant-at-arms for taking down a gunman. “All the details are not in but the sergeant-at-arms, a former Mountie, is the one that engaged the gunman, or one of them at least, and stopped this,” Fantino said.
“This is an ongoing joint police operation and there is no one in custody at this time,” Ottawa Police said in a statement but offered no further details.
Fantino also praised the RCMP for protecting the Prime Minister and other parliamentarians. “They were so professional,” Fantino told the Toronto Sun of the RCMP. “Incredible.”
Mr. Harper will make a statement later today, said his communications director Jason MacDonald, who added that the Prime Minister “is safe and not on Parliament Hill” and was being briefed by security officials.
THE LOCKDOWN: OTTAWANS WARNED TO STAY CLEAR OF DOWNTOWN
RCMP are urging people in Ottawa not to head downtown, and for those in tall buildings around the downtown core to avoid windows and stay inside.
One source said the RCMP was said to be sending reinforcements from Toronto to assist in the investigation in the Ottawa shootings.
Parliament Hill staff were issued a security warning to stay away from doors and windows, lock their doors and, if doors would not lock, to barricade them. “Do not open a door under any circumstances,” the security alert said.
“The situation is very live right now,” says RCMP spokeswoman Sherley Gooodgie.
Public building close to Parliament buildings have also established lockdowns, including the University of Ottawa, where personnel went door to door to tell people to stay put. Schools in the downtown core were also locked down.
The Rideau Centre mall, a major shopping centre a block from the war memorial, was also in lockdown after police initially reported shots being fired nearby. However, the police later said that no shots were fired near the mall.
Cindy VanBuskirk, general manager at the Rideau Centre, said there was no shooting in the mall. But for nearly two hours, people have not been able to leave or enter the mall. Ottawa Police Service “asked us to lock down. We did. We have no further comment,” she said in an e-mail.
THE WAR MEMORIAL: ‘MOVE DOWN! THERE’S AN ACTIVE SHOOTER!’
Police officers at the cenotaph, which is cordoned with yellow tape and bordered by cruisers, ordered bystanders and journalists to move farther away from the crime scene, toward the Rideau Centre mall.
Tensions ran high as the officers yelled at journalists to get back around 10:30 a.m. (ET), with one officer shouting: ” Move down! There’s an active shooter! If you want to die, stay here. If you want to live, keep moving!”
Liberal MP John McKay said he was just taking off his jacket about to go into the caucus room when he heard “Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!” He assumed the sounds were construction noise, but then security guards rushed down the halls ordering everybody out.
Mr. McKay said the MPs followed security out the back door and then they “huddled out back by the monuments” for a while. “That building is the people’s building … I’d hate to think of us shutting it down because of both paranoia and legitimate fears.”
A tourist from the Netherlands, Yan Legtenborg, told reporters that a man with a long rifle was “running like hell that way… to Parliament Hill.”
“We didn’t expect this in Canada,” he said.
EYEWITNESS: ‘IT SOUNDED LIKE A SHOTGUN’
One man watched the scene unfold from a third-floor office that faces the war memorial. “It was unreal,” said the witness, who asked not to be identified. “I heard the shot and looked out the window. . . The shooter came from the west side and aimed right at the young guy that was standing guard and shot him twice. I think he missed with the first shot; it sounded like a shotgun.”
He saw the young soldier fall. No one returned fire. Other guards and police converged on the victim. The scene was “mayhem,” he said.
THE CHATEAU LAURIER: GERMAN DELEGATION SAW DRAMA UNFOLD
Carol Devine, owner of Devine Fine Jewellery on the hotel’s main floor, says people are being told they can’t leave. “It’s really weird. I feel the same today as I did on Sept 11 ,” she said. “I was working that day here, there were people stuck here from the U.S. and security on Parliament Hill. It’s the same kind of weird feeling.”
Richard Teltschik is leading a delegation of German parliamentarians from the Christian Social Union of Bavaria on a visit to Ottawa, and left the Chateau Laurier as the Parliament Hill drama was unfolding.
“There was police coming from all sides, from all the streets they are running towards the Parliament,” he said in a phone the Museum of Canadian History, which is across the Ottawa River from the capital.
“We are all concerned and surprised that in quaint Canada, this kind of thing could happen,” he said. “Everybody expects Canada to be remote from all the troubles of the world, peaceful and quiet and now we have this situation.”
REACTION: ‘OUR THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS ARE WITH THOSE INJURED’
Mr. Harper cancelled his planned trip to Toronto, where he was to present girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai with honorary Canadian citizenship on Wednesday afternoon.
Conservative MPs held a moment of silence after they were informed that the Canadian Armed Forces member passed away.
Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz postponed a planned 11.15 a.m. news conference in Ottawa, due to take place in the National Press theatre, across Wellington Street from Parliament Hill. The news conference was to follow Wednesday’s release of the central bank’s interest rate statement and monetary policy report.
Ottawa mayor Jim Watson released a statement saying he was “shocked and saddened.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those injured,” he said.
“Ottawa Paramedics and Fire Services provided first response to those injured and Ottawa Police Services are engaged with other law enforcement agencies at this time in pursuit of the criminal or criminals who have carried out this vicious and unwarranted attack.”
In Toronto, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she and the opposition leaders discussed suspending Question Period in light of the Ottawa shooting, but she says “we refuse to be silenced.”
White House and other U.S. government officials have been in “close touch” with their Canadian counterparts “to offer assistance” and have asked to arrange a phone call between President Barack Obama and Mr. Harper at the Prime Minister’s earliest convenience, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington.
The NHL game scheduled in Kanata between the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs has been postponed.
JOSH WINGROVE, STEVEN CHASE, BILL CURRY AND JILL MAHONEY
OTTAWA AND TORONTO — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Oct. 22 2014, 9:59 AM EDT
Last updated Wednesday, Oct. 22 2014, 2:38 PM EDT