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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police released a recent photo Micheal Zehab Bibeau. (RCMP)
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police released a recent photo Micheal Zehab Bibeau. (RCMP)

Drugs and religion key themes in Ottawa shooter’s troubled life Add to ...

“The accused … wants to be in jail as he believes this is the only way he can overcome his addiction to crack cocaine,” the mental status report states. “He has been a devoted Muslim for seven years and he believes he must spend time in jail as a sacrifice to pay for his mistakes in the past and he hopes to be a better man when he is eventually released.” The report concluded: “I am unable to find any features or signs of mental illness.” He got credit for time served and did one more day in jail.

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was also having trouble with his Muslim elders at a Burnaby mosque. Mufti Aasim Rashid, a spokesperson for the B.C. Muslim Association, said Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was asked in 2011 to stop sleeping at the mosque.

“This was after he was out of jail and didn’t have a place to go,” Mr. Rashid said. “He was caught a couple of times trying to linger around when the mosque was about to be locked, and then after that he was told to never try to do that again.”

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau was in and out of the mosque for about four months. While he was there, elders described him as rude and in everyone’s business. He picked a fight over the mosque’s outreach attempts, complaining too many non-Muslims were visiting. People at the mosque kept their distance from him, Mr. Rashid said.

Then mosque officials learned Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had somehow gained access to the facility’s keys. “They changed all the locks,” Mr. Rashid said. “That was the end of that.”

A man who first met Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau at a detox centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside in December, 2012, said they shared a shelter dorm. Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau planned to hitchhike to Ottawa. His new friend urged him to take a bus instead for his safety.

“He had some problem with his passport and wanted to get that sorted out and he wanted to go back to Libya,” said the man, who identified himself only as Steve. The RCMP says Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau told his mother he actually planned to go to Syria, where many extremists have gone to fight with Islamic State.

Steve reconnected with his friend in September at the Salvation Army’s Beacon shelter. “He was working: unloading trailers, swamping and doing some kind of moving work. He told me he was getting pretty good wages.”

Steve described Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau as friendly and deeply religious, but said he often used crack cocaine and heroin.

Patricia Cuff, a spokeswoman for the Salvation Army in B.C., confirmed Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau had stayed at the 60-bed Beacon shelter at some point. Police contacted the Salvation Army on Wednesday.

The Salvation Army is reaching out to those at the shelter who may have been affected by the news, she said.

“When an incident like this takes place, we make every means necessary to provide support to both our clients as well as to staff that may be impacted,” she said.

At the Beacon shelter on Thursday, several people described him as religious; others said he was nice and seemed normal – “like you and me.”

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau surfaced Oct. 2 at the Ottawa mission, one kilometre from the National War Memorial, telling people he had travelled by bus from Vancouver to sort out passport issues.

Tom Wilson, 56, says Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau slept below his bunk, No. 294, last Friday or Saturday night, and had a heavy black hockey bag with him. “He only stayed that one night in my room because I kept questioning him about his huge bag.”

One volunteer at the shelter, Abdel Kareem Abubakir, bonded instantly with Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau over their shared faith and Arabic language. “He was very pious. I tried to discuss with him these issues. But he seemed very extreme.”

Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau carried the Koran with him everywhere but couldn’t beat temptation. “When he collapsed into drugs, he became isolated,” Mr. Abubakir said. “He was isolating himself. He was always sleeping. For three days he wasn’t talking. His intention was to get a passport and get home. He had to stay away from drugs.”

His issues didn’t seem to originate from mental health problems, said Mr. Abubakir, but from drug use. “He was very sharp-minded, talkative, social person. He has no problem with the mental.”

While he earned praise from staff and residents for helping translate for an elderly tenant who spoke only Arabic, Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau’s demeanour soured in recent days. Several residents overheard him yelling angrily into a lobby telephone after several rental car outlets declined his business. Instead, he bought a used Toyota Corolla to drive to the War Memorial.

With reports from Ian Bailey and Mark Hume in Vancouver, Robyn Doolittle in Ottawa, Ingrid Peritz and Sean Gordon in Montreal, Colin Freeze and Tu Thanh Ha in Toronto, and the Associated Press

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