10/22/2014 02:56 EDT | Updated 12/22/2014 05:59 EST

Ottawa shooting: Kevin Vickers hailed as hero who took down attacker

House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers was lauded by members of Parliament Wednesday for his "selfless act" after he reportedly shot an assailant who killed a Canadian Forces member in Ottawa.

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Vickers, 58, a native of Miramichi, N.B., became the sergeant-at-arms in the House of Commons eight years ago after a varied career in security that included protecting foreign dignitaries and members of the Royal Family. 

He spent 29 years with the RCMP and rose to the rank of chief superintendent, often serving as the face of the national police force in New Brunswick. Before his appointment as sergeant-of-arms, Vickers was director of security operations for the House of Commons.

The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for safeguarding the authority of the House of Commons, as well as the safety and security of the Parliament Buildings.

MPs tweet thanks

On Twitter, MPs credited Vickers with saving their lives:

- "MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers who shot attacker just outside the MPs' caucus rooms." —New Democrat MP Craig Scott.

- "I am safe & profoundly grateful to Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our security forces for selfless act of keeping us safe." —Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino.

- "Thank God for Sgt at Arms Kevin Vickers & our Cdn security forces. True heroes." —Justice Minister Peter MacKay.

- "Kevin Vickers is such a fine man. His actions today are no surprise. Proud to call him a friend." —Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

Vickers's brother John, who lives in Victoria, told CBC News Wednesday that his brother called their mother, Monica, at her New Brunswick home shortly after the incident to tell her he is safe. 

"I just couldn't be prouder of him right now," John said, adding that his brother has "always been committed to service, people and country." 

When asked about Vickers’s reported heroics, his cousin Keith said “It’s Kevin being Kevin.”

“He’s a very intelligent and responsible person. He’s a people person-type fellow, too, but you don’t want to mess with him,” said Keith. “All the boys, the local guys, they’ll be quite proud to hear he did what he did.”

According to Keith, Vickers’s son is currently a police officer with the local force in Miramichi.

Dan Bussières, the current sergeant-at-arms in the New Brunswick Legislature and Vickers’s colleague in the RCMP for many years, called him “a true gentleman who is very responsible.”

“He’s the perfect man to be the sergeant-at-arms in Ottawa right now. I can assure you of that,” Bussières said. 

Prior to his appointment in the House of Commons, Vickers worked as an aide-de-camp for New Brunswick's lieutenant-governor. As an RCMP officer, he was responsible for security services provided for the Queen and Prince Andrew.

He is a recipient of the Queen's Jubiliee medal, the Canada 125 medal and the RCMP Long Service medal. 

Sergeant-at-arms 1st line of safety

Although sergeants-at-arms often operate outside of the public spotlight, the events on Parliament Hill are not the first time they have been instrumental in preventing bloodshed in Canadian history.

When army supply clerk Denis Lortie opened fire in Quebec's National Assembly in 1984, the legislature's sergeant-at-arms went into the chamber and tried to calm him.

Rene Jalbert, a retired major in the army, offered Lortie a cigarette and eventually persuaded him to release about a dozen hostages who were cowering in the chamber.

The legislature was minutes away from convening when Lortie entered the building through a side door carrying two submachine guns, and at one point sat in the Speaker's chair firing wildly. He killed three people and wounded 13 others.

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