By PHIL COUVRETTE and ROB GILLIES
MONTREAL (AP) – Police interrogated a man accused of opening fire at a midnight victory rally for Quebec’s new separatist premier, but they said the suspect’s rambling statements in French and English offered no immediate motive for the shooting that killed one man and wounded another.
A police official on Wednesday identified the suspect as Richard Henry Bain, 62, from La Conception, Quebec. The police official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the suspect had not been charged.
Police said Bain will likely appear in court Thursday morning. Meanwhile, people who know Bain, the owner of a hunting and fishing resort, 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.
The gunman was heard shouting “The English are waking up!” in French as police dragged him away.
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.”
“I am deeply affected by this, but I have to go forward and assume my responsibilities,” Quebec’s first female premier said Wednesday, calling Quebec a non-violent society. “An act of folly cannot rid us of this reality.”
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.
Police said a 48-year-old man was pronounced dead at the scene and a 27-year-old man was wounded but would survive. A third man was treated for shock. Police didn’t identify the victims, but they worked at production company Productions du Grand Bambou Inc, a person answering the phone at the Montreal company confirmed.
It was 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.
Marois said that when she first went backstage, she saw that someone was wounded and there was a fire outside, but she thought everything was under control.
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.
“We can’t establish at this point what the motive or intent was,” Lapointe said. “Was he targeting Madame Marois? I’ll tell you a lot of things were said by this individual after they arrested him, in French and English.”
Police had dealt with the suspect previously for a minor incident, Lapointe said.
Marois later returned to the stage and asked the crowd to disperse peacefully, and then seemed to finish her speech. She left the hall amid a tight cordon of provincial police bodyguards.
The suspect was a heavy-set man wearing a black ski or balaclava mask, 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.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement that he was “angered and saddened” by the shooting. “It is a tragic day where an exercise of democracy is met with an act of violence,” Harper 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.
Bain owns a hunting and fishing resort near the ski resort area of Mont Tremblant, Quebec, about 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of Montreal.
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. The site was pulled down Wednesday with the message “This account has been suspended.” The phone number listed was out of service.
Marie-France Brisson, director general in the municipality of La Conception, said Bain frequently met with community officials, notably to expand his outdoor activities. His requests included exclusive rights to local land, which involved complicated processes that sometimes frustrated him, she said.
Brisson said Bain dealt with them in French, not English, though it was broken French. He complained about red tape, but there were no outbursts about language, she added.
Brisson said she last saw Bain in recent weeks and there was no change in his usual demeanor.
Jean Benoit Daigneault, of tour and charter helicopter company Heli-tremblant, said he and Bain met on a few occasions, but he wasn’t aware of any grievances Bain had with the Parti Quebecois.
Wednesday morning’s attack took place just after Marois began speaking in English – a rare occurrence in a speech at a partisan PQ event. She had promised English-speaking Quebecers that their rights would be protected, following an emotionally charged campaign that saw her party focus on language identity issues.
The 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 1 of the darkest periods in modern Canadian history.
Gillies reported from Toronto.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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