He wore black, had a mohawk haircut and big boots, and carried a gun. His epitaph was written on tombstone photo posted on a Goth subculture website: "Kimveer – Lived fast, died young, left a mangled corpse."And the rest is now a bloody piece of Montreal history.
For the third time since 1989, a rampage by a lone gunman on a Montreal campus has left a grisly trail of victims in the groves of academe.
Yesterday, the toll was high. By nightfall, one young woman was dead – 18-year-old Anastasia DeSousa of Montreal. Nineteen other people, a mix of males and females, were wounded, and more than 12 of them were in hospitals, half in critical condition.
The suspect, identified by news reports today as Kimveer Gill, a 25-year-old Montrealer of south Asian origin known on a Goth subculture website by the nickname Trench, was also dead, shot by Montreal police.
The attack paralyzed part of downtown, shut metro service, clogged cellphone networks and catapulted Montreal into the top stories covered by world news services.
The shootings left a city and a nation wondering: Why again in Montreal?
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the actions of the gunman a "cowardly and senseless act."
In Quebec City, Premier Jean Charest said he is "deeply saddened for the victims, the families, the parents."
And in Montreal, Mayor Gerald Tremblay said he was "profoundly shocked and deeply saddened (by) the tragic events."
It all began around lunchtime at Dawson College, Quebec's largest CEGEP. Home to 10,000 students, it's housed in a converted century-old Catholic mother house that takes up an entire city block on the western edge of downtown, near the old Forum.
At 12:30 p.m., on de Maisonneuve Blvd. W. near the campus's southwest entrance, a tall man with hair cut mohawk-style, his coat long and black, got out of a black Pontiac Sunfire parked outside Dawson's daycare and opened the trunk. An ordinary gesture, except he took a rifle out and held it in the air.
Students walking by didn't believe what they were seeing.
"We didn't know if it was real or just a toy,"said Marco Zampino, who was there with three of his friends. Other students also saw the man and his gun; they thought it looked like a paintball gun Some ran into the college to alert securi ty, who called Montreal police.
As it happened, the police were already on their way – by fluke. They'd been called to Dawson on an unrelated drug investigation, police chief Yvan Delorme said last night.
But the gunman wasn't stopped in time.
Zachary Mofford was sitting on a bench on de Maisonneuve Blvd. around 12:40 p.m. when the man approached the southwest entrance and started firing, hitting at least one student.
"I jumped into the bushes,"said Mof ford, a first-year student. "It was like he was on a mission to kill. He didn't give a f-k what was going to happen."
After hearing the shots – from what would later turn out to be one of three firearms the shooter was carrying – the police saw the gunman and followed him into the school, Delorme said. They also called for backup.
Inside, the officers tried to draw the at tention of the gunman to distract him from the students, Delorme added. But the gunman then fired on the officers with an automatic weapon, he said.
Then the shooter entered one of the college's cafeterias, in the atrium on the second floor of the building.
There were about 100 students inside. They looked up, saw the man, saw his weapon. The gunman backed up and started firing.
En masse, the students threw themselves to the floor. Three students were hit. Nikola Guidi, 17, was crouched next to one of them – his friend Lisa. "I was right beside (her) when she was shot,"Guidi said afterward, his white T-shirt stained with her blood. Then the police came in. Two Montreal cops ordered the gunman to drop his weapon. But he was defiant. "Get the f--k away from here!"he screamed at them, according to Guidi. After that, pandemonium. Word got out in the rest of the building that there was a shooter loose. Students, teachers and staff scattered to find a way out of the building or a safe place to hide. Business student Fabio Viera was coming out of class when he was startled by loud bang behind him.
"I turned around and saw a man in black standing there. Everyone started screaming,"Viera said.
More shots were fired, and the gunman yelled and cursed at the students, telling them to get back as he wedged inside an alcove beside a vending machine with his gun pointed out, said student Kayla Diorio. "At first, he was just shooting into the air,"she said.
That's when police shot him, according to witnesses.
"Security told us to go downstairs, said Daniel Franco, a second-year stu dent. "We waited downstairs, and from there I could hear more and more shots When we went back … there was a trail of blood on the floor that led to outside."But the drama wasn't over yet. Think
"The police came out with the guy in handcuffs and there was a long trail of blood behind him,"said Sonny Chias son, an Alexis Nihon maintenance em ployee. "He was bleeding heavily from his upper chest. (Then he) fell to the ground and the police kept trying to talk to him."
Many minutes went by. "But eventually they just put a towel over his face be cause he was dead."
It was ghastly, no doubt, but yesterday' drama was not unprecedented. Indeed the setting and modus operandi were distressingly familiar to Montrealers.