Security staff armed with sledgehammers caused nearly $100,000 in damage to Parliament Hill heritage fixtures in the panicky aftermath to a 2014 shooting, records show. Newly-released memos disclose police and security guards misplaced keys, then went “smashing through locked doors” after advising terrified Hill staff to barricade their offices.
Memos obtained through Access To Information detail the damage caused by security in the hours after a lone gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stormed the building October 22, 2014. He was shot dead by police within seconds of running into Parliament’s Centre Block with a Winchester hunting rifle.
Commons security staff alerted legislators and Hill employees to lock all doors, then proceeded to use sledgehammers to punch their way into dozens of offices including the cabinet room in a mistaken search for other shooters.
The sledgehammer search was omitted from all official accounts of the shooting by RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police and Commons authorities. In a timeline of the incidents pieced together from memos and a 2015 RCMP After Action Review:
At 9:50 am Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed a reservist at the National War Memorial. At 9:54 am Zehaf-Bibeau entered Centre Block and was fatally shot 31 times.
At 1:34 pm Commons security emailed all Hill office staff: “ALL BUILDINGS remain in lockdown: Do not leave your current location until you receive instructions from Security Services. THIS MEANS stay in your office with the doors locked and away from any windows. If your door does not lock, find a way to barricade the door if possible. Do not open the door under any circumstances. Security Services has the required keys” (original emphasis).
At approximately 1:40 pm security staff began forcing open doors.Sources said constables could not find keys for Parliament Hill offices and feared other gunmen were loose in the building. Police at the time circulated unconfirmed reports – later proven false – that there were suspects on the Centre Block roof; an “unidentified boat behind the Supreme Court”; and mistaken claims of shootings on two nearby streets and a shopping mall.
Memos indicate from approximately 1:40 pm to 2:10 pm security guards and police went from floor to floor with sledgehammers, smashing 25 office doors with enough force to damage hinges as terrified staffers cowered inside.
“Both exterior envelope windows and interior windows were damaged, some from bullets but the majority from security authorities smashing through locked doors,” read one Department of Public Works memo. “There certainly will be lots of doors to repair,” said another; “These are emergency repairs for various wooden doors damaged by police.”
“This Is Part Of Our History”
At the cabinet room the “whole door was smashed”, said a damage report: “We have four teams of carpenters throughout the building working with House and Senate staff on a priority basis.”
Memos said $82,000 worth of oak doors were damaged, requiring $8,000 in emergency repairs; as well as $5,900 in windows for a total $95,900 repair bill. Replacement of heritage doors was deferred till a pending renovation of Parliament. Security guards also went into a translator’s booth in a Centre Block committee room and had “soundproofing torn off the wall”; no reason was given.
By comparison actual ricochet damage from bullets was minor, a total $9,700 in repairs to windows, marble corridors and a stone sculpture. “It is important to record the damage as a record of this event in our history,” a Public Works official wrote; “The House of Commons presently wants to fill the bullet holes in the woodwork and leave as is in order to prevent deterioration of the holes, and to maintain the ability to see it in order to be able to tell the story.”
Parliament was classified a federal heritage building in 1986 “because of its exceptional significance as a national landmark and because of the ceremonial design and detailing of the building itself,” the department wrote. The Centre Block’s original structure and fixtures date from 1922.
“We would choose to go forward using the House of Commons carpenters to repair doors and preserve as much of the heritage fabric as possible,” said one memo written two weeks after the shooting; “This is the best way to keep the heritage elements in place until the 2018 planned restoration start, and this will all be reviewed again.”
The House of Commons yesterday did not comment.
By Tom Korski