POLITICS

Zehaf-Bibeau video: Room holds its breath during gunman's final words

03/06/2015 06:14 EST | Updated 05/06/2015 05:59 EDT
In the very hallway Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was killed four months ago, reporters gathered on Friday to wait to see what the gunman had left behind.

MPs on the Commons public safety committee were meeting to hear testimony from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, who was bringing with him a cellphone video recorded by Zehaf-Bibeau moments before he shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial Oct. 22.

There are only two large committee rooms on Parliament Hill, and Friday's hearing was being held in the Reading Room.

That's the same place the Conservative caucus was meeting when Zehaf-Bibeau stormed down the hall, firing his rifle. We know now Conservative MPs barricaded that door, picked up flag poles as weapons and were preparing to be confronted by whomever was outside.

The limited seating filled up quickly. There was extra security in the form of plainclothes officers and six large screens positioned throughout the room in view of reporters, MPs and staff.

It was not just the anticipation of seeing the long-sought video of Zehaf-Bibeau that was on the minds of people in that room.

It was the reality that things could have been much worse — that, just four months ago, the man who killed Cirillo drove his car to Parliament Hill and forced his way in could have done more harm.

MPs will tell you they thought there had been a massacre on other side of those doors as they listened to one shot, two shots and then finally a long, loud barrage of gunfire.

Tense moment as video played

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson entered through doors in the back of the room. He seemed visibly nervous as he approached a wall of cameras and waiting journalists.

He sat down, alone. Poured himself a glass of water. And began his statement.

"I appear before you this morning in response to your request to release the video related to the attack of Oct. 22."

The room was silent. MPs said later it was a tense moment that brought back all the emotions of the actual day.

Paulson revealed pictures of the long knife Zehaf-Bibeau had tied to his wrist and the gun whose origins RCMP have so far been unable to track.

MPs were handed a transcript of what Zehaf-Bibeau said and told the audio would be poor. 

Then for 55 seconds the entire room held its breath, eyes fixated on monitors.

For 55 seconds, the room listened to the focused, cold and deliberate explanation of what could have possibly motivated Zehaf-Bibeau.

It may not have changed any of their political views on the government's anti-terror legislation, but it was a stark reminder of the day an extremist attack struck all too close.