Wednesday 25 April 2018

Hero praises his Irish heritage for helping him cope after shooting a man 15 times to end terror attack

THE PAUL WILLIAMS PODCAST: Paul Williams speaks to Kevin Vickers, hailed a hero after he took gunman down inside Canada's House of Commons

Sergeant at Arms for the House of Commons Kevin Vickers Photo: Grab from Canadian Broadcaster Corp. video.
Sergeant at Arms for the House of Commons Kevin Vickers Photo: Grab from Canadian Broadcaster Corp. video.
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

Canada’s ambassador to Ireland has told how his Irish heritage and religious upbringing helped him cope after shooting a man 15 times to end a terror attack.

Kevin Vickers was hailed a hero after he took down a gunman in a hail of bullets inside Canada’s House of Commons in 2014.

Two years later, he made headlines in Ireland after grabbing a protester and helping gardai arrest him at an event commemorating British soldiers who died in the Easter Rising.

Mr Vickers told the Paul Williams podcast that he acted on impulse on both occasions. Before becoming an ambassador, Kevin Vickers served as a policeman and homicide detective in Canada. He later became the national parliament’s head of security.

In October 2014 he was serving as Sergeant of Arms in Canada’s House of Commons when terrorist Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a guard and injured three others at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

“He sequestered himself behind a pillar just before you go into the library in our parliamentary building,” said Mr Vickers.

“I could see his rifle behind the pillar. There was a moment when I thought I would just reach out and grab the gun, just pull it. But, while I was thinking that he shot and fired. As he shot and fired I dove through the air in front of him, shooting once. I know I hit him because I remember this big painful shriek. I fell heavily to the floor directly beneath him and that is when I shot him another 14 times at point-blank range.”

He said the days following the incident were difficult.

“Later that night, at 3am, I woke up alone and I was crying. It was the loneliest moment of my life.”

Mr Vickers continued to work for another three days before giving in to pressure from his mother to return home and take a break.

His mother’s family came from Bantry, Co Cork. His father’s sisters were nuns and there were several priests in the family.

He said his Irish and religious background helped him cope with the ordeal.

“On the Saturday morning, my mother said: ‘Caoimhin Michael, I want you home’.

“I asked what am I going to do when I get home and I thought of these 17 men that I took confessions from for homicides and I thought: ‘I am going to pray for them’.

“I always remember my dad taught me that regardless of how repulsive the crime, you always respect the dignity of the person. I went down to the river after that where I used to fish as a young boy and now fish for salmon as a man and I just said to myself: ‘Mother was right. I needed to come home’.”

Mr Vickers said he does not regret tackling the protester at Grangegorman Cemetery in Dublin last May, despite Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau failing to support his actions.

“I was sitting there with other dignitaries and I caught, out of the corner of my eye, a gentleman getting up,” said Mr Vickers.

“As he was getting up he was opening his jacket. Right then and there I think that fired a trigger in me and made me rush towards him.”

He said his background and training meant he would react the same way again if necessary.

“Had my training in my past been in cardiology and that gentleman who presented himself had taken a heart attack, I am sure a cardiologist would have responded in the same manner that I did, instinctively, for totally different reasons. It is an instinctive response.”

Sunday Independent

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