By Constance Guindon
By Constance Guindon
Toronto – First reported as a suspect, the Quebec City shooting witness has given his first interview since Sunday’s tragic massacre.
Mohamed Belkhadir went to the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City Sunday night to attend evening prayers with the men he considered to be his “brothers.” He could not have known it would be the last time he would see six of them alive. Nor could he know the strange twist of fate that would see him considered a suspect in the tragedy that was about to befall his community, his city, his country.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported on Tuesday that Belkhadir had broken his silence and told his story for the first time.
Shortly after arriving at the mosque on Sunday evening, Mohamed Belkhadir left temporarily to clear snow from the steps. While he was outside he suddenly heard a barrage of automatic weapons fire coming from inside. His first instinct was a natural one. He decided to hide.
The same source reported that, when the gunshots had finally stopped, Belkhadir called 911 and went inside to see if anyone was still alive. Just inside the doorway he found a man whose condition was not clear to him. Seeing a man who was still breathing, Belkhadir gave him his coat.
That was when he saw a man with a weapon. Assuming it was the gunman, Belkhadir had another human reaction. This time he ran. Little did he know, it was a Quebec Provincial Police (QPP) officer. When he was ordered to get down on the ground he realized what was happening and complied. That is when he was arrested and taken into custody.
The CBC reported that, not long afterward, the police received a call from a man identifying himself as the gunman. He wanted to turn himself in. He wanted to talk about his deed. So, he sat in his car and waited patiently for police to arrive, surrendering with little or no drama. Both men spent Sunday night behind bars.
In the morning, Mohamed Belkhadir was released to find he’d been identified on national television, not as a witness, but as a suspected murderer. It wasn’t until early afternoon that the QPP took to Twitter to announce his release and his change in status to witness, confirming there had only ever been one suspect. Media outlets, including the CBC, scrambled to correct the error.
CBC reported later in the day on Monday that Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Laval University student had been charged with six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder with a restricted weapon.
When asked if he felt any bitterness toward the police, Belkhadir was surprisingly generous. “They were very nice to me,” he said.