The sword-wielding attacker dressed in medieval costume who killed two people and injured five others in a Halloween rampage in Quebec City was “not associated with a terrorist group”, Canadian police said Sunday.
The attacks occurred Saturday night in multiple locations in the Old Quebec neighbourhood, near the tourist hotspot Chateau Frontenac and the National Assembly, the Quebec provincial parliament.
The suspect, who was arrested early Sunday after an hours-long street-by-street manhunt, was identified by local media as Carl Girouard, a man with a history of mental health issues from a Montreal suburb. Police have yet to confirm his identity.
A police spokesman did say the attack appeared premeditated – the suspect had spoken of carrying out such a crime five years ago – but added that he had no criminal record.
The suspect made a brief preliminary court appearance by video-link Sunday afternoon; he was informed that he would face two charges of homicide and five more for attempted homicide.
A search was conducted of his home in Sainte-Therese, near Montreal, local media also reported.
“Yesterday evening we were plunged into a night of horror when a 24-year-old man, who does not live in Quebec, came with the intention of claiming as many victims as possible,” Quebec City police chief Robert Pigeon told reporters.
He said the suspect was armed with a Katana sword, a curved sabre of the type once used by Samurai warriors in Japan.
“Everything leads us to believe that he chose his victims at random,” Pigeon added.
A police spokesman identified the two persons killed as 56-year-old Francois Duchesne and 61-year-old Suzanne Clermont. Four men, ranging in age from 19 to 67, were wounded, as was a 24-year-old woman.
The police chief said that two of the victims are longtime French residents of Quebec.
Some of the injured suffered “significant lacerations,” he said.
Anne Pasquier, a hair stylist neighbour of one of those slain, Clermont, said the woman hadn’t had time to cross the street Saturday night “because the suspect had arrived just that second and decapitated her,” a detail which has not yet been confirmed by officials.
“She was lovely. She had a great sense of humour,” added Jean-Pierre Ajmo, 82, a personal friend.
The other fatal victim, Duchesne, was head of communications at the Quebec Fine Arts Museum, according to Jean Rousseau, a city councillor.
“My heart breaks for the loved ones of the two people killed in last night’s horrific attack in Quebec City,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Twitter. “I’m also wishing a full recovery to the injured.”
“All of Quebec is in mourning,” said Quebec deputy premier Genevieve Guilbault, who denounced the “barbaric” acts.
According to three witnesses quoted by Quebec newspaper Le Soleil, the attacker allegedly “slit the throat” of his first victim near the Chateau Frontenac hotel, and there was “a lot of blood”.
The man then continued on Rue des Remparts, where the second person was killed, before heading to the Old Port, wounding the other victims, according to the newspaper.
Quebec resident Karin Lacoste said she was going to a convenience store around 11pm when she saw several armed police officers wearing bulletproof vests.
“There was one who told me, ‘Run to your home because there is someone walking around, he is a killer and he has killed people,'” she told LCN news channel. “I was really scared.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the streets of Old Quebec were quiet at the time of the attacks.
Quebec Mayor Regis Labeaume called the incident “terrifying”, but insisted the city is “one of the safest in the world”.
“It is difficult, nearly impossible, to anticipate the consequences of madness clearly stemming from problems of mental health,” he added.