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Quebec police believe rally shooting suspect acted alone

A gunman kills one person and injures another at a Parti Quebecois victory rally in Canada. Police are unsure whether the party's leader was the target.

September 06, 2012|By Kristina Jovanovski, Los Angeles Times
  • Police arrest the suspected gunman in the fatal shooting at a Parti Quebecois rally in Montreal. The party won provincial elections, and its leader will be Quebec's first female premier.
Police arrest the suspected gunman in the fatal shooting at a Parti Quebecois… (Olivier Pontbriand, Montreal…)

TORONTO — The suspect in a fatal shooting at a Montreal political rally for a Quebec separatist party probably acted alone, police said Wednesday.

One person was killed and another hospitalized in critical condition after the late-night attack, which occurred as Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois was giving her victory speech after her party won Tuesday's provincial elections.

Police said suspect Richard Henry Bain, 62, was detained outside the hall, where he shouted in French as he was being taken away: "The English are waking up!"

Charges are expected to be filed by early Thursday.

The Canadian province, which has a French-speaking majority, has a long history of contentious politics based in part on language differences. At the rally, Marois, speaking in English, said she would protect the rights of Anglophones.

"We share the same history and I want to shape together our common future," she said at the midnight rally. On Wednesday, she said she also wants to strengthen a bill that protects the French language in Quebec.

At the sound of the gunfire, Marois was whisked offstage by guards. Marois said she didn't learn about the death until after the event.

"Yesterday's election night was deeply saddened by a tragic event. A man is dead for no good reason," Marois said at a news conference. "But in spite of this tragedy we have to say Quebec is not a violent society."

Both shooting victims were members of the technical crew for the event.

Police said they don't know whether Marois, who will serve as Quebec's first female premier, was the intended target. But they believe the shooting could have been politically motivated.

"That's the whole basis of the investigation right now," said Lt. Guy Lapointe of the Quebec provincial police. "Was the elected premier the target of the suspect? That's [what] we're trying to establish."

Lapointe added that police are reviewing threats made to politicians, including on social media, during the campaign. No links between those threats and the shooting had yet been found, he said.

Police said the alleged gunman, who was wearing a robe and a balaclava, also set a fire behind the hall where the rally was taking place. Police say they seized an assault rifle and a handgun from Bain. They also searched the suspect's car at the scene and found a small amount of flammable material.

Despite winning the most seats in the election, Marois' party did not secure an outright majority and will have to work with other parties to retain power, thus making it difficult to push a separatist agenda. A recent poll showed support for Quebec independence decreased during the provincial campaign.

Independence has been a defining issue for the province. In 1970, a Quebec politician was murdered by a group seeking sovereignty. The death triggered a political crisis during which the national government gave police more power. In 1995, a referendum on sovereignty narrowly failed.

Jovanovski is a special correspondent.

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