I was driving home from a trip to the Fine Arts Museum and saw massive commotion downtown near Alexis-Nihon Plaza and Dawson College. Dozens of police cars, thousands of people on the streets, sirens everywhere. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what happened, so I turned on the radio.
Apparently, there’s been a shooting at Dawson College. Nobody quite knows what happened yet. Apparently, a gunman entered the cafeteria and opened fire. The online reports are saying at least two people were shot, the radio reports are saying at least four.
More details to follow as they become available.
Update: It’s been about an hour since the whole thing started, and according to radio reports, many students are still inside the building. One caller said he spoke to his daughter on her cell phone, and she said they’re hiding behind lockers. There still appears to be massive confusion.
Update #2: They’re now reporting that the shooter was a 22-year-old student and he was wearing – you guessed it – a long black trench coat.
Update #3: Latest police updates are saying that the shooter is still inside the building, barricaded. Police are apparently still trying to get as many students out as possible, but a hostage situation is looking more likely.
Update #4: Students are calling into the radio from their cell phones now, saying that students still in the building are hiding out and waiting for the police to secure the building to get them out. Witnesses are saying that the gunman started shooting outside the building first, and then went inside and opened fire again.
Update #5: There’s now speculation that there was more than one gunman. Some reports are saying there were two or even three different gunmen. These reports are unconfirmed at this time. Another report speculates that one of the gunmen may have shot himself. Again, unconfirmed.
Also, students who have gotten out of Dawson’s building are being advised to walk down to Concordia’s Hall Building, as the student union is setting up assistance for anyone who needs it. Concordia as a safe haven… go figure.
Update #6: Just got in touch with Marieke, who is thankfully out of the building and safe. I only spoke with her for two seconds because everyone she knows is calling her, but she said she had just left the cafeteria before it happened.
Update – 2:30pm: CBC’s television report is saying that RDI is reporting that two gunmen are now dead – one shot by police, one having committed suicide.
Also, CTV is reporting that one of the gunmen seemed to be chasing someone in particular. Though CBC is still saying eyewitnesses are reporting that it appeared to be random.
Now, they’re reporting that pretty much everyone is out of the building.
Update – 2:35pm: Police hotlines have been set up for parents and friends looking for information at 514-280-2880 or 514-280-2806.
Update – 2:40pm: RDI is now reporting that 4 people have been killed and 16 injured. Wire reports are saying that there may be a third suspect. Also, metro service on the green line has been suspended.
Update – 2:45pm: More details are emerging. The shooters are being described as having long black hair, piercings and long black trench coats. There may be a third shooter still at large.
For anyone reading this from outside Quebec who is wondering about the cegep system, cegep is basically an intermediary step between high school and university. Most of the students are about 16-19 years old, since the pre-university programs are usually 2-year programs that are roughly the equivalent of grades 12 and 13. There are also a large number of 3-year technical programs in fields such as nursing, photography, design and such, so there are many older students too. Dawson is one of the three major public English-language cegeps in Montreal, and about 10,000 students attend classes there. It’s located in the middle of the western part of downtown Montreal, attached to Atwater metro station and Alexis-Nihon plaza and across the street from where the old Forum was. Pretty much everyone knows someone who either goes to Dawson or went to Dawson, and understandably everyone is utterly shocked.
Update – 3:05pm: CTV now has it online that police are confirming that two shooters are dead – one by suicide, one shot by police. CBC’s television report just said that police had been crouched in the bushes outside Dawson, next to a nearby daycare center, chasing what may have been a third gunman.
The whole area is cordoned off to traffic and people are telling me that traffic elsewhere is crazy, so if you don’t have to drive near the western part of downtown right now, don’t.
Update – 3:30pm: Conflicting reports on the number of dead and injured. CJAD radio is reporting no deaths and 16 injuries. Global TV is saying at least two deaths. RDI is still saying four. CBC Newsworld just reported that 15 people have been admitted to the Montreal General Hospital, and of those, 6 are critically injured, 2 are seriously injured and the remaining 7 are stable.
Update – 3:45pm: Amazing to see Concordia Student Union students on television for something non-controversial for a change. One of the CSU VPs is on television and he is urging all Dawson students in the area to walk down the street to Concordia’s Hall Building for food and drink, counseling, support and a central location to organize people and find out about their friends.
Update – 3:55pm: The latest police statement says that a suspect has been “neutralized”, that they’re still worried there might be another suspect in the area, and that everyone is out of the building, there are no hostages. Still no more information about the suspect or suspects.
By the way, if you’re looking for info on Dawson’s website, don’t bother; it’s very slow (because so many people are logging on) but there isn’t anything updated on there at the moment. You’re probably better off checking with the media, the police hotlines, or calling people directly.
Update – 4:00pm: CBC is reporting that police are confirming that, contrary to previous reports, there was only one gunman. Still waiting on confirmation of that.
Update – 4:05pm: A statement on the Montreal police website now says a third hotline number has been set up, at 514-280-2805. The Montreal General Hospital also has a hotline in place for anyone concerned about injured relatives at 514-843-2839.
Also, metro service is reportedly restored on the green line, but trains are not stopping at Atwater; they’re merely bypassing the station.
Update – 4:20pm: CBC has photos from the scene.
Update – 4:35pm: The General is hosting a press conference live right now, and it’s being carried by all the media outlets. (The local CTV affiliate has even pre-empted Oprah to cover the story!) Anyway, the hospital spokesperson is saying that they have 11 patients that have been brought to the emergency room, and of those, 8 are in critical condition, 3 are currently in the operating room and 3 more will be operated on.
All of the injured are described as having suffered gunshot wounds to various locations – some to the abdomen, some to the chest, some to the limbs and one head wound. Presumably, the one patient with the head wound is among those in critical condition.
They’ve said that 3 more patients were sent to Jean-Talon hospital, and 1 or 2 more to the Jewish General Hospital.
Update – 4:38pm: A police news conference is also going on right now. For now, they’re only confirming news about one suspect, who died “following intervention of police officers”. They haven’t confirmed or denied the existence of other suspect(s), and they aren’t saying anything about what the suspect’s motive or motives may have been.
Update – 4:50pm: Just to give you an idea of how uncommon it is to hear gunshots in Montreal, CBC is interviewing one student who said she was in the other cafeteria at the time when they first heard the shots, and that for about 10 minutes afterwards, people just continued doing whatever they were doing before, because nobody actually realized they were gunshots until someone ran into the room screaming at them to get out. She said everyone assumed it was a joke, or fireworks, or just a random loud noise.
Update – 5:00pm: All the conflicting reports are finally starting to be constructed into a vague timeline. It seems a gunman first approached a group of students outside Dawson, on the street, who were hanging out or having a smoke, and opened fire, shooting at least 4 people. He then went into the building, proceeded to the Atrium and the Cafeteria, told everyone to get down, and randomnly opened fire. At least 20 people were injured, and the gunman is now dead, either having been shot by police or having shot himself.
Students rushed to exit the building, and some barricaded themselves in classrooms or hid wherever they could. It took well over an hour for everyone to be evacuated.
The shooter has been described as a 19-year-old white male, with long slicked-back black hair, a black trench coat and/or dark army fatigues, with tattoos and piercings, and using what has been alternately described as a sniper’s rifle, a semi-automatic weapon, or an automatic weapon.
Police were searching for other suspects, but though a second and perhaps even third shooter has been widely reported, they have only confirmed the existence of one shooter.
Update – 5:10pm – Of course, references all over the media to the Columbine school massacre, as well as, closer to home, to Marc Lepine and to Valery Fabrikant. It seems from the initial reports that the today’s episode bears more resemblance to the Columbine shootings and to the subsequent and oft-forgotten shooting at a high school in Taber, Alberta than to the previous Montreal shootings, but that probably won’t stop anyone from drawing parallels and from suggesting that school shootings are something of an epidemic here in Montreal, despite the rarity of these episodes.
Update – 5:30pm: A student eyewitness who was inside the atrium’s cafeteria at the time of the shooting just reported that the gunman had started shooting first with a handgun, and then he pulled out a semi-automatic rifle from his trench coat and loaded it and started shooting it. The witness sounded pretty confident about the type of guns used, though as I mentioned before, guns are pretty rare around here. A lot of people (myself included) probably don’t know much about guns besides what they see in the movies, so we may have to wait for more concrete confirmation about that.
Update – 5:56pm: The euphamisms are over; the police spokesperson confirmed in plain English that the gunman was shot and killed by police.
Update – 6:15pm: A college spokesperson just announced that Dawson will be closed until Monday, with all classes suspended.
Update – 6:19pm: CBC is reporting that one of the injured victims just died of her injuries. She was 20 years old. Hospital spokespeople are not confirming this just yet.
Update – 6:50pm: One student inside Dawson took a video with his cellphone of the police and the shooter. The quality is very poor and so far I’ve only seen it on CTV, but I’m sure the footage will show up online shortly. If so, I’ll post a link. (Update – 10:50pm – CNN has the video available here).
And the Gazette is now confirming the death of one of the victims, as reported above by CBC. Still no official confirmation, with all questions about the victims or the shooters being referred to the SQ. There are rumours that there will be another press conference later this evening.
Update – 8:25pm: Just spoke to Andrea, who’s a med student doing a surgery elective at the MGH right now. She wasn’t directly involved, but was nearby, assisting in an unrelated surgery, and said one of the doctors who was supposed to scrub in came into the room to say “sorry, can’t, all hell has broken loose”. Andrea spoke highly of the efficiency of the hospital staff in preparing to receive the shooting victims. “They had the OR’s cleared in literally 5 minutes,” she told me. Amazing.
According to the news, many of the patients are still in surgery or in treatment, and there won’t be any official updates until tomorrow morning on their condition.
Update – 8:45pm: Just got off the phone with my mom. She was also trying to reach people all afternoon, and assured me that my cousin managed to get out of the building and is safe and sound. Also, her boss’s son escaped but apparently one of his close friends was shot in the arm. Insane.
Update – 9:30pm: There’s little new news to report at the moment. I’m going to close off the live-blogging thread at this point. I’ll post future updates on a new thread as more news arrives.