More than a year after Alexandre Bissonnette opened fire on a mosque in Quebec City killing six Muslim men, their friends and family members watched their final moments for the first time in a video shown at the shooter’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
Before allowing the security camera footage to be shown in open court, Judge François Huot warned those in the gallery that it would be “difficult, brutal,” the Montreal Gazette reported. While some members of the Muslim community left the room, many others, including some survivors of the attack, stayed behind and watched the chilling footage.
The videos show not only the methodical way Bissonnette carried out the attack -- they also showed the humanity and heroism of his victims.
In the videos, captured by security cameras, 28-year-old Bissonnette arrives at the Grand Mosque and calmly opens fire on worshippers who are socializing after evening prayers. He reloads his gun at least four times and continues shoot, according to The Gazette.
At one point, a small child is seen wandering around, confused as Bissonnette fires shots in the background, before being shepherded to safety in an alcove, where others are hiding, The Globe and Mail reported.
Last month, Bissonnette pleaded guilty to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder. Five people were injured that night, and a sixth attempted murder charge was laid to account for the 35 others, including at least four children, who were in the mosque at the time. He will receive a life sentence without parole for at least 25 years, but the Crown will argue he should never be eligible for parole.
In the footage, Bissonnette is seen arriving at the mosque just before 8 p.m., taking a semi-automatic .223 caliber rifle out of a guitar case, loading it, and aiming it at Mamadou Tanou Barry and Ibrahima Barry, cousins who are the first people to leave. But when he pulls the trigger, nothing happens.
Bissonnette then drops the rifle, pulls a pistol out of his coat and shoots the men, The Globe and Mail reported. As they lay bleeding on the ground, Bissonnette walks up and shoots them again — this time with a 9mm Glock pistol, according to The Gazette.
The videos shows panic and confusion at the doorway as worshippers begin to realize that two men have been shot just outside. They see Bissonnette approaching and run towards the prayer room to save themselves, according to The Gazette. Bissonnette enters the building and starts shooting indiscriminately. Once he empties a 10-round magazine, he retreats to the entryway and reloads the gun — he does this a total of four times.
One of the victims, Azzedine Soufiane, is seen charging at Bissonnette and trying to tackle him in what prosecutor Thomas Jacques described as an act of “indescribable courage.” Soufiane dies in the attempt, as Bissonnette, pinned against a wall, shoots him repeatedly. He shoots him again after he has collapsed to the floor.
“Courageous and heroic,” said Jacques, praising Soufiane, according to the Globe. “He tries to stop this carnage himself.”
A number of people take refuge in a small alcove. While most of them survive, one of the men, Khaled Belkacemi is shot and killed.
The video also shows Mohamed Belkhadir, who was mistakenly arrested by police and rumoured to be the second shooter in the attack, approaching the Barry cousins and checking on them, The Gazette reported. He takes off his own coat and puts it on Mamadou Tanou Barry, who was still breathing at the time. When police officers enter the frame with their guns pointed at him, Belkhadir runs for his life. The video puts to rest the rumours that continue to circulate among right-wing conspiracy theorist circles online.
Over the next two weeks, the Crown will present evidence on how Bissonnette planned and carried out the attack. Bissonnette’s sentence is expected to be handed down later this year.