Quebec shooter facing 16 charges

Associated Press
A man is arrested by police outside the Parti Quebecois victory rally in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012.  A masked gunman wearing a blue bathrobe opened fire during a midnight victory rally for Quebec's new premier, killing one person and wounding another. The new premier, Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois, was whisked off the stage by guards while giving her speech and uninjured. It was not clear if the gunman was trying to shoot Marois, whose party favors separation for the French-speaking province from Canada. Police identified the gunman only as a 62-year-old man, and were still questioning him Wednesday morning.  (AP Photo/Montreal La Presse via The Canadian Press, Olivier Pontbriand)
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MONTREAL (AP) — The suspect in a deadly shooting at a rally following the election of Quebec's new separatist premier was arraigned Thursday on 16 charges, including murder, attempted murder and possession of explosives.

Richard Henry Bain, 62, of La Conception, Quebec, made his first appearance in court behind protective glass Thursday after being accused of opening fire at a midnight victory rally Tuesday for Quebec's new premier, Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois. Prosecutors said that after firing his gun, Bain used a flare to light a fire.

Bain, wearing a white T-shirt, appeared calm and alert during his appearance in the highly-secured courtroom. He was represented by a legal aid lawyer who he spoke with briefly. Bain is scheduled to return to court on Oct. 11.

Denis Blanchette, 48, was killed and a 27-year-old was injured just outside the Montreal theater.

Prosecutor Elaine Perreault said outside the courtroom that Bain had two weapons on him and three more in his car nearby. She said he had many more at home including shut guns, most of which were registered. She said he had 22 registered guns in total, but said authorities don't know exactly how many others he had at home. Bain was the owner of hunting and fishing lodge.

When asked if Bain targeted the premier, she said only that there might be additional charges. She said they are continuing to investigate the motive.

Bain was in a "proper state of mind" to appear in court after spending some time in a hospital, she said.

The suspect's gun jammed after the initial shots were fired, a Quebec police official said Thursday, possibly saving lives.

Meanwhile, neighbors and acquaintances of the man said he was a friendly but often frustrated businessman who had overseen several failed ventures, but never had any public outbursts, leaving them to wonder how he could be charged with such crimes.

People who know Bain, the owner of a hunting and fishing resort 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Montreal, recalled his complaints about bureaucracy but could think of no political grievances he held. Quebec provincial police said the masked gunman wearing a bathrobe opened fire just outside the building where Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois was giving her victory speech just before midnight Tuesday.

The gunman was shown on television ranting and shouting "The English are waking up!" in French as police dragged him away.

The mayor of La Conception, Maurice Plouffe, said he was "very surprised" to hear Bain was tied to the shooting and said the images of the suspect being dragged away by police "were not easy to watch." Plouffe said Bain was sometimes frustrated in his dealings with the city after seeing a number of zoning requests were rebuffed, but added "I have never seen him become aggressive, he was quite normal."

A man full of ideas and proposals, Bain, however, seemed unlucky in his business ventures, with a number of unsuccessful projects.

"He had many projects but not many of them materialized," Plouffe said.

A list of members of the Mont Tremblant Chamber of Commerce describes Richard Bain as the owner of Les Activités Rick, which promotes itself as a major fly-fishing destination.

Marie-France Brisson, director general in the municipality of La Conception, said Bain frequently met with community officials, and dealt with them in French, not English, though it was broken French. He complained about bureaucratic obstacles, but there were no outbursts about language, she added.

Brisson said she had seen Bain in recent weeks and noticed no change in his usual demeanor.

The suspect was a heavy-set man wearing a black ski mask or balaclava, glasses and a blue bathrobe over a black shirt and black shorts. Police didn't identify what weapons he had, but camera footage showed a pistol and a rifle at the scene. Police said there is no reason to believe anyone else was involved.

Marois was whisked off the stage by guards and was not injured. She later called the shooting an isolated event and said it was probably a case of a person who has "serious health issues."

The attack shocked Canadians who are not used to such violence at political events and have long worried that gun violence more often seen in the U.S. could become more common in their country.

The victims worked at production company Productions du Grand Bambou Inc, a person answering the phone at the Montreal company confirmed. Friends of Blanchette, a lighting technician, packed a downtown Montreal street Wednesday night in a candlelight vigil outside the hall where he was killed.

It was still not clear if the gunman was trying to shoot Marois, whose party favors separation from Canada for the French-speaking province.

Marois had just declared her firm conviction that Quebec needs to be a sovereign country when she was pulled off the stage.

"What's going on?" she asked her security detail. The crowd apparently was unaware of what had happened.

Police initially said the gunman made it into the building, but later said they believe he opened fire just outside in the back alley. The gunman then lit a small fire before he was captured, police said.

He didn't put up any resistance, said Lieut. Guy Lapointe of the provincial police.

Police had dealt with the suspect previously for a minor incident, Lapointe said.

Outgoing Liberal Premier Jean Charest, who announced he is stepping down as party leader after ruling Quebec for nearly a decade, said "Quebec has been struck directly in the heart" by the shooting.

The separatist Parti Quebecois party's victory is unlikely to signal a new push for independence. Opinion polls show little appetite for a separatist referendum. Previous referendums on separatism were rejected by voters in 1980 and 1995.

The last outbreak of major political violence in Quebec occurred in the 1970s, when Canadian soldiers were deployed after terrorist acts by a group seeking independence. Members of the militant FLQ kidnapped and killed Quebec's labor minister and later abducted, then freed, a British diplomat. The "October Crisis" was considered one of the darkest periods in modern Canadian history.

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Gillies reported from Toronto.

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