Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six Muslim men and left five others badly injured after he stormed the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre on 29 January 2017, was obsessively researching Donald Trump, reading the views of far-right social media personalities, and watching YouTube videos about guns in the month before the attack, court documents reveal.
Bissonnette, 28, pleaded guilty last month to six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.
He was, however, not charged with terrorism, despite the statement of PM Trudeau but he still faces the potential prospect of 150 years in prison.
Bissonnette had sought to present himself to the court as a concerned voice about terrorism, supportive of Donald Trump’s argument that the ‘Muslim ban’ will reduce the risk of terrorism, in opposition to views of Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau.
The testimony of prison social worker Guylaine Cayouette on Monday shattered this image, revealing a darker, colder and more ultimately more accurate version of Bissonnette, of a man who confessed just one regret – that was unable to murder more people on that fateful January evening.
Cayouette disclosed that Bissonnette had other targets aside from Muslims and that he considered killing himself during the attack. She added then when his rifle jammed inside the mosque, Bissonette shrugged and smiled at worshippers before reverting to his Glock pistol. An hour before the attack, he viewed a YouTube video about this firearm.
This testimony caused many family members of the victims to weep in the courtroom. Bissonnette is said to have been smiling when the court adjourned.
The tragic event left six dead and 19 injured. It robbed 17 children of their fathers.
Khaled Belkacemi, 60, Azzedine Soufiane, 57, Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, Mamadou Tanou Barry, 42, Ibrahima Barry, 39, and Aboubaker Thabti, 44, were killed.
Aymen Derbali, 41, became tetraplegic after being hit with seven bullets, one of which severed his spinal cord at the C8 spinal nerve. Derbali’s heroism that evening arguably saved more lives, and a crowdfunding campaign helped raise C$416,375, which will help him and his family afford a new home with the necessary mobility adaptions. He told the court candidly about his paralysis and being unable to hold his children.
Derbali has also questioned the sincerity of Bissonnette’s initial claims, adding that the attack was terrorism.
Other details about Bissonnette’s far-right views were already established, including his anti-Muslim views online, which François Deschamps, who runs Bienvenue aux Réfugiés to support refugees, observed for about a year.
His support for Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen emerged days after the terror attack. It The visit of Le Pen to Quebec City emboldened Bissonnette to vocalise his extreme right-wing views. A childhood friend told the Globe and Mail that Bissonnette was “enthralled by a borderline racist nationalist movement.”
Others spoke of Bissonnette’s obsession with Hitler, the Second World War, and the Holocaust.
During the trial, the prosecution read out a Q&A from Alexandre Bissonette’s father, who denied that his son was a racist, adding that he ‘had black friends’.
Details from the courtroom paint a broader picture of Alexandre Bissonette’s views, including the revelation that he posed for a photograph while wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat.
His online behaviour again raises urgent questions about the nature of online radicalisation.
Between January 1 and the day of the attack, Bissonnette searched for Trump 819 times across social media platforms and on Google.
Court documents reveal that Bissonnette used Twitter to search for far-right and so-called ‘alt-right’ ideologues and media outlets. He checked the Twitter accounts of Ben Shapiro, the former editor-at-large for Breitbart and John Nolte, Breitbart’s current editor-at-large, 89 and 76 times respectively. Bissonnette searched out white nationalist Richard Spencer 21 times and made the same number of searches for Paul Joseph Watson. Other notable figureheads from Fox News, including Kellyanne Conway and Tucker Carlson, appeared in his searches. Alex Jones of Infowars and former KKK grand wizard David Duke appeared in his Twitter searches.
Evidence presented at Alexandre Bissonnette's sentencing hearing this morning includes a list of some of the Twitter accounts he was checking in the month before he killed six men at a Quebec City mosque. pic.twitter.com/Xdew4HbjkQ
— Andy Riga, Montreal (@andyriga) April 16, 2018
He was also interested in Justin Bourque, who murdered three Mounties and injured two others during a shooting spree in Moncton, New Brunswick, in 2014, and in the white supremacist terrorist Dylann Roof – who murdered nine black church members in June 2015.
Bissonnette was also interested in a lesser known mass murderer – the misogynistic Marc Lépine, who in 1989, stormed the École Polytechnique in Montreal, and murdered 14 female students and injured ten others. Before opening fire, he ordered all of the men out of the room and declared his hatred of feminists.
It is, therefore, unsurprising to learn that Bissonnette also researched women’s groups and the Muslim student association at his former university.
Bissonnette saved photos of the exterior and interior of the Grande mosquée de Québec (Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre), checking their social media accounts on a regular basis. On the day of the attack, he accessed the mosque’s website twelve times.
He had accessed or saved images of anti-Muslim cartoons and pictures of Donald Trump on a personal computer.
The RCMP document reveals that Bissonette also researched videos and information about shootings and ammunition.
Meanwhile, in the UK, it took Darren Osborne mere weeks from imbibing far-right propaganda online to murdering 51-year-old Makram Ali in a terror attack last June. He also a functioning alcoholic, with a noted temper, and history of violence.
The legal team representing Alexandre Bissonnette hope he receives concurrent sentences, making him eligible for parole in 25 years.