Sentencing arguments began Wednesday afternoon for Alexandre Bissonnette.
The 28-year-old pleaded guilty last month to the Quebec City mosque shooting and killing six people, while injuring 19 others.
Wednesday, the crown showed surveillance video that captured the horrific events of that night, which was under a broadcast ban.
Mohamed Labidi, president of the Quebec City Islamic Cultural Centre and spokesperson for the community, told reporters that he didn’t have the words to describe what he felt watching his friends get shot to death.
The terror lasted less than two minutes, but it was violent and deeply disturbing. In one shot, three children are playing together quietly before gunshots alert their parents and everyone starts running for cover.
“They are playing so innocently and suddenly, it’s a scene of war,” Labidi said through tears.
The video is taken from six different camera angles. It shows Bissonnette kill at close range and in cold blood.
In one shot, one of the victims, Azzedine Soufiane, charges Bissonnette, sacrificing himself to save others.
Wednesday morning, the judge invoked a broadcast ban that prevents media organizations from showing the video. It was a victory for members of Quebec City’s Muslim community.
“It’s not healthy for our society to let this kind of image be duplicated and to push it on the internet,” said Boufeldja Benabdallah, who testified in front of the court urging the judge to invoke a broadcast ban.
Benabdallah left the courtroom Wednesday afternoon, unable to view the video himself.
However, Aymen Derbali, now paralyzed after taking multiple bullets during the attack, says he wanted to see it – to make sense of that night – and move past it.
“So that I can know what really happened. There are things that are still unclear,” Derbali said.
On January 29, 2017, evening prayers began at 7:30 p.m. and lasted about fifteen minutes. Many of the people present were getting ready to leave when Alexandre Bissonnette approached the Quebec City Islamic Centre with a 9mm glock and a .223 semi-automatic long gun.
At 7:54 p.m., Ibrahima Barry and Mamadou Tanou Barry walked out the front door of the mosque to find Bissonnette standing in front of them. He shoots both men with the long gun. The men fall to the ground, then attempt to run away, but Ibrahima falls again. Mamadou Tanou appears to slip on ice and slides several metres across the front walkway.
Bissonnette is seen fishing in his jacket pocket, where he pulls out a handgun. He first fires a second shot at Ibrahima before walking the few metres to Mamadou Tanou and shooting him a second time at point-blank range.
Bissonnette then enters inside the mosque. At 7:55 p.m. he is seen reloading his gun in the front entrance of the mosque. Thirty-four seconds later, he returns to the front entrance and reloads a second time.
After hearing gunshots, the men in the mosque run to a back room that Crown Prosecutor Thomas Jacques described as measuring 5′ x 10′ and having no exit. While most were able to hide in that small room, it wasn’t big enough for everyone. Khaled Belkacemi was at the front of that room and is seen falling to the ground as he’s hit by gunfire.
During this time, Soufiane runs towards Bissonnette with “indescribable courage,” according to Jacques, and throws himself on top of Bissonnette. The shooter is able to retreat to the front entrance again and shoots Soufiane multiple times.
After reloading for the second time, Bissonnette fires yet another gratuitous shot into Soufiane’s body before rapid-fire shooting towards the crowd trying to take cover where they could.
At 7:56 p.m., Bissonnette runs out of the mosque.
Two minutes later, another member of the mosque, Mohamed Belkhadir, approaches the bodies laying outside of the mosque. He appears to be talking on his cell phone. The prosecutor explained he was calling 9-1-1.
Belkhadir removes his coat and places it over one of the victims. Two minutes later, police run on scene and Belkhadir flees.
Jacques told the court that Belkhadir didn’t recognize the men as police and fled because he saw armed men approaching him. Belkhadir was arrested that night, but released shortly after.
“But he had absolutely nothing to do with it,” Jacques said. “There is no question that Bissonnette acted alone.”
Bissonnette was also in court during the viewing of the video, but he hardly watched it. Instead, he sat slouched, with his eyes looking down.
The sentencing hearing will continue Thursday and is expected to last three weeks.
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