1999: Deadly rampage
Pierre Lebrun, a former OC Transpo employee and
hunting enthusiast pulled into the transit garage located at 1500 St.
Laurent Boulevard and went on a shooting rampage. Word of this act had
spread out to all employees and as such many of them lay huddled in
terror while the event unfolded.
A sense of disbelief swept over OC Transpo employees
and Ottawa-area residents alike. Transit users filed onto buses the
following week and offered drivers their condolences. Others left
flowers outside OC Transpo's headquarters.
Police sifted through information to figure out what
prompted Lebrun, a tall, lanky 40-year-old bachelor with a stutter, to
show up at his former workplace with a Remington 760 .30-06 rifle - a
slightly modified version of the weapon that James Earl Ray used to kill
civil rights crusader Martin Luther King in 1968 - and his pockets
stuffed with ammunition. "It's Judgment Day!" he shouted when he arrived.
"You think it's bad now - just wait." Lebrun's mother offered one
disturbing explanation: taunts by co-workers prompted, among other
things, by her son's stutter, drove him to seek revenge.
Lebrun's victims, all long-serving OC Transpo
employees, were shipper Brian Guay, 56; stores clerk Clare Davidson, 52;
and mechanics Harry Schoenmakers, 44; and David Lemay, 45. (Another
employee who was shot in the side was released from hospital the
But why those well-liked employees were singled out
remains a mystery. "These guys were the salt of the earth," said Ozzie
Morin, a veteran employee on disability leave. "Nobody hated those guys.
That's why I can't understand why this happened."
In his suicide note, discovered by his parents in
their home in Orléans, an eastern suburb of Ottawa, just as police
called to tell them of the tragedy, Lebrun mentioned four co-workers he
had problems with and three that he liked. But none of his victims'
names were on the list. And as he strode through the building during his
rampage, Lebrun, who quit his job as an audit clerk in January after 13
years with the company, encountered more than a dozen people - but opted
to shoot only some.
"It's very curious as to why he selected certain
individuals to kill and permitted certain people to live," said Ottawa-Carleton
regional police Inspector Ian Davidson. "He could easily have killed
many more people."
A disgruntled former transit
worker compiled a list of co-workers he didn't like before setting out
on a deadly rampage, killing four employees and then himself at Ottawa's
main bus garage.
The man, identified as Pierre Lebrun, opened fire at
transit workers with a high-powered rifle in what police described as a
premeditated attack. In addition to the dead, two workers were injured.
The president of the transit
workers union, Paul Macdonnell, described Lebrun as a "very sick"
man with chronic mental problems. Lebrun, 40, was hired in 1986 by OC
Transpo and briefly worked as a bus driver. By choice he took a job in
the garage. His problems began about two years ago when it was noticed
he had difficulty working with others. He had some altercations with co-workers
and was fired in August 1997. His union, the Amalgamated Transit Union,
intervened and after mediation, Lebrun was reinstated a month later. The
union intervened because it felt the punishment didn't fit the crime.
"He appeared to have made a mistake. He apologized and he was put
in an easier job."
Recalling the fistfight that got
him fired, garage supervisor Robert Manion said: "He had a bit of a
speech impediment and he was teased a little bit. It got to him because
he had sensitive feelings about it. But maybe they just got him at a bad
time when maybe there was other stuff going on in his life at the same
But the problem didn't end there.
Mr. Lebrun complained about co-workers and once said some people were
making fun of his stutter. Mr. Macdonell says Lebrun's apparent sense of
victimization probably stemmed from his emotional problems. "We
investigated the complaint about stuttering," Mr. Macdonell said.
"We had a talk with his colleagues. We believe his illness
contributed to his sense of what was happening to him,"
Taking his severance pay Lebrun
set out to Las Vegas in one last chance at success. When his luck ran
out at the gaming tables, Lebrun drove back to Ottawa virtually non-stop
through the northern U.S. His last known whereabouts before the bus
depot rampage was a gas station in Idaho.
On April 7, 1999, Lebrun arrived
at OC Transpo at 2:30 p.m.in his black, 1997 Pontiac Sunfire. He pulled
out a high-powered Remington 760, pump-action rifle and headed into the
garage. Once inside he started firing at his ex-work colleagues. Someone
grabbed the public-address microphone and screamed for employees to run
and call police.
As people scrambled for their
lives -- hiding in closets, under tables, in buses, and running for the
exits -- a highly agitated Lebrun proceeded into a small office not far
from the supervisor's office, where he cornered two victims and killed
them instantly with two blasts from his gun. From there, the gunman
moved down a hallway and made an inept attempt at setting a fire with
oil cans. The fire barely ignited before petering out.
He then headed up the nearby
stairs for the mezzanine level and walked all the way back to near the
midpoint of the garage, affording him a wide-open view of the garage
area and an excellent vantage point to continue shooting. He had 36
rounds of ammunition left. The killing could have gone on. But, instead,
he turned the rifle on himself and ended his life.
According to police, Lebrun left
a suicide note at his home listing seven colleagues, four of whom he had
problems with. But as fate would have it, the four people he killed were
not on his list. "His intentions were very clear. From that letter,
one could surmise that he was intending to cause very serious harm or
death. It is our view that he had intentions to shoot far more people
than he had the opportunity to do," said Inspector Ian Davidson.
"Clearly he was a troubled
individual that had some difficulties in the workplace," said
Inspector Davidson, lead investigator. "His motivation was based on
some disagreement he perceived that he had with individuals that he
worked with. As a result of that perception, his action was to exact
Gunman kills four,
self, in canadian bus garage
San Jose Mercury News
April 7, 1999
A former employee of Ottawa's transport agency shot
dead four people at the city's main bus garage Tuesday, then killed
himself with his high-powered rifle, police said.
The attacker opened fire with a .306-caliber rifle in
mid-afternoon in a cavernous garage housing about 500 buses in the
Authorities said they had spoken to the gunman's
family, but did not immediately release his name or the names of the
Massacre victims on
Ottawa police say
killer held old grudges against targeted garage workers
Akron Beacon Journal
April 8, 1999
A disgruntled former transit worker who killed four
employees and then himself at Ottawa's main bus garage had compiled a
list of co-workers he didn't like before setting out, police said
Police Inspector Ian Davidson said officers found a
note at Pierre Lebrun's home, outlining his plans for Tuesday's assault
and identifying employees he liked and those against whom he bore
grudges. Lebrun fired a high-powered rifle nine times.
Ottawa gunman kills four
April 8, 1999
Ottawa -- A man armed with a high-powered rifle killed
four people and then himself after bursting into the stockroom of the
Ottawa transit company yesterday afternoon.
The gunman was a former OC Transpo employee who police
say was "extremely distraught" as he drove to his former
workplace, parked, walked in with his rifle and began shooting. All four
victims were thought to be OC Transpo employees.
Their identities were withheld pending notification of
family members. Two men were treated in hospital for injuries described
as not life-threatening.
Amalgamated Transit Union spokesman Michael Milloy
identified the man as Pierre Lebrun, who had recently resigned from a
management job to which he had been promoted after driving buses and
performing other duties for about 15 years.
Union president Paul MacDonell said he knew the former
"He had a long history of mental illness. The
company spent a lot of money trying to help him out," Mr. MacDonell
"He's been off on sick leave and back and forth...
This is just a very sick individual."
Bus driver Pierre Servant said he heard at least two
gunshots and then a message on the intercom urging employees to leave
the building. As he was fleeing the area, he saw one of the victims
staggering and calling out: "I got shot!"
OC Transpo security personnel were on the scene almost
immediately, Mr. Servant said. They laid out the victim on the closed
trunk of their car. Mr. Servant, who has driven buses for OC Transpo for
27 years, said he clearly saw blood on the man's shirt and bullet holes
in his back.
Mr. Milloy said Mr. Lebrun had recently quit OC
Transpo. He said that Mr. Lebrun, a quiet single man in his 40s, had
been fired in 1997 in connection with an assault incident, but that the
union had fought to reinstate him.
OC Transpo's offices are housed in a sprawling complex
in an industrial area of east-end Ottawa, and police spent much of the
afternoon going through the main building room by room looking for
additional victims. They said the gunman had acted alone, and they did
not treat the incident as a hostage-taking.
The first 911 call was received at 2:39 p.m. Police
entered the shooting scene at 3:47 p.m. and found the gunman dead, but
news of the five deaths did not begin filtering out until about 7.
Police were still photographing the bodies and
gathering evidence inside the garage late last night. About 50 witnesses
had been interviewed, and police said they were planning more interviews
Yesterday, witnesses told how workers hauled the
wounded out of harm's way while the former stockroom employee tried to
unjam his rifle.
"There was one guy right there trying to get some
parts out of the stockroom and a guy got shot right beside him,"
said mechanic Sylvain Couture. "There was one guy down so he
grabbed him by the arm and tried to run. It's a good thing that the gun
jammed, because otherwise there would have been more dead than this,
About 100 workers were in the immediate area of the
shooting and there was a panic to get out when orders were issued to
leave the building.
Garage attendant Marcel Gleason said there was a rush
to get out once the gunshots were heard.
"They told us to walk out and everybody was
running out," he said. "Everybody was scared. We heard the
shots," he said.
Mr. Couture said he saw the man shoot two people
inside the stockroom. He heard that a third person in the electrical
shop had been shot.
"One guy yelled over the PA, 'There's a guy with
a gun, call 911.' Everybody just ran out," he said.
The building's fire alarm rang for hours after the
building had been cleared.
Mr. Gleason said he was working in the machine shop
when he heard four shots.
"The foreman came through telling us to run
outside; somebody was trying to shoot everybody, so everybody ran
out," he said. "It happened so fast. It's scary."
Family members arrived at the scene shortly after the
shooting. School buses were brought in to move workers who took cover
behind a nearby restaurant. Others were taken to a nearby fire hall to
The shutdown of the bus garage caused transit delays
in parts of the city and affected about 500 routes, and officials said
there would be more delays today.
"The very people who are traumatized are the ones
who have to work through the night [to get the system up and
running]," said Mike Sheflin, OC Transpo's general manager.
"Even with a heavy, heavy heart, we will do our
best to offer services [today]."
Mr. MacDonell said "people are walking around
numb" at the office.
Inspector Ian Davidson of the Ottawa-Carleton Police
said he was unaware of any event of such magnitude in the history of the
area. He would not say whether the victims had been selected as targets
by the gunman, or whether he was on a random shooting attack. Police
said the company received no warning that such an attack might be
Random acts of violence are unusual in Canada,
although there have been other multiple slayings. In 1989, Marc Lépine
killed 14 women at the University of Montreal.
Al Loney, chairman of the Ottawa-Carleton
transit-services committee, said that people should not forget that
Ottawa is still Ottawa, and that now is not the time to adopt a fortress
Four named by gunman in hit-list letter of revenge
April 8, 1999
OTTAWA - Pierre Lebrun, an avid hunter, once argued
with a co-worker over gun control, reciting the gun-lovers' adage
"Guns don't kill people, people kill people." He just never
said he was one of those people.
Tuesday, Lebrun killed four men before turning his
gun, legally certified, on himself.
The former garage stores clerk - a man now being
called "troubled" and "sick," though it's not clear
he was ever diagnosed as mentally ill - wrote a one-and-a-half page
letter in French naming four people he wanted revenge against,
apparently on the same day he set out to seek it.
The letter was not discovered until after the deaths,
when police searched his residence outside Ottawa.
No one named in the letter, however, was among his
victims. Lebrun also wrote about three people he did get along with. In
the end, no one knows why he targeted those he did, and did not shoot
others who were within range. He seemed to select victims at random.
"He was just walking and shooting and making
comments to people in the area that had witnessed the shootings,"
said Inspector Ian Davidson, in charge of the investigation. Now, in the
aftermath of one of Canada's worst massacres, and the first such
shooting spree in the nation's capital, the frustrating exercise in
answering "why" has begun.
Was Lebrun, the killer who gunned down his victims
with a legal weapon, sick and delusional or lucid and lethally angry?
Did he act in a state of psychosis or with clear-headed, purposeful
There were, in hindsight, signs of odd behaviour. The
40-year-old single man had a quick temper and was especially sensitive
to teasing about his stuttering.
In January he resigned from OC Transpo more than a
year after he won reinstatement to the job. He'd been fired in August,
1997 for "swatting a guy in the head" during an argument with
another employee, said union head Paul Macdonnell.
But he had no criminal record, and showed few signs of
outright mental illness. Police yesterday admitted they could draw no
such conclusion yet.
"Notwithstanding such a serious, horrific
incident which one may conclude represented mental illness, I'm not in a
position to indicate that was the case," said Inspector Ian
Davidson, head of Ottawa-Carleton's major crimes section.
Lebrun moved to the Ottawa area from outside
Kapuskasing more than 15 years ago. He was hired as an OC Transpo bus
driver on Nov. 17, 1986.
After Lebrun's temper led him to smack a co-worker in
August, 1997, he was referred to a doctor and was urged to take an anger
management course. It's unknown if he did so, but the doctor he
consulted cleared him to return to work, and the company agreed. Lebrun
signed a "last chance" agreement, and was on notice that no
other aberrant behaviour would be tolerated.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. John Bradford is now trying
to help the Ottawa police piece together a profile of Lebrun.
"We're going to look for causes but really, I
don't think we're really going to find a cause," said Macdonnell.
"This individual was just sick."
A distant family member who spoke to The Star but
refused to be identified said Lebrun "was whacko." Other
members of the family refused to speak to reporters yesterday.
"I have no comment now," said Lebrun's
sister Francine Mahabir, of Toronto. But she said the family may release
a statement today.
Lebrun was deemed unable to perform as a driver and
moved to a job as a garage attendant, where he worked from July 1991 to
He complained other workers teased him about his
stuttering. He was moved to a position as a stores counter person, where
he worked from 1992-1997.
That's how Ozzie Morin, 59, got to know him. Morin and
Lebrun often took breaks and ate lunch together.
Lebrun didn't like the new law requiring owners to
register their guns, says Morin, remembering their argument of a few
But Morin, who worked for years alongside Lebrun and
is now on disability leave, says overall Lebrun seemed to be "a
pretty peaceful lad" even though he remained bitter over disputes
on the job.
"But we all get moody," he said. "I
didn't think he was ill. I can't really say anything today that would
say he was whacko, you know."
Still when Morin heard the radio news reports of a
shooting at OC Transpo's main garage by a 40-year-old gunman, he had an
inexplicable gut feeling who it was.
"The only name I could come up with was Pierre
Both union and company representatives said Lebrun was
given every break possible at work, including sick leave, medical help
and transfers that ultimately led last year to what Macdonnell said was
"quite honestly, the least stressful job in the entire
company" - a non-union job as audit clerk, where Lebrun worked
alone with minimal contact with others.
It wasn't enough.
Citing personal reasons, he resigned on Jan. 23. At
some point after that, he moved out to Logan Lake, B.C., a town of 2,500
about 70 km south of Kamloops to find work.
His last known whereabouts before Tuesday's shooting
rampage was on April 4 at a gas station in Idaho, U.S. where he filled
up his car.
After that, police don't really know much before the
911 call came in at 2:39 p.m. Tuesday.
With a high-powered, pump-action .30-06 calibre
Remington rifle on the seat next to him, Lebrun drove into OC Transpo's
main bus garage around 2:30 in the afternoon, got out, and began firing.
Lebrun killed his first victim on the machine shop
floor. He fired at two others who miraculously escaped, one with a flesh
wound, the other shocked and bloodied but unhurt.
Lebrun killed two more men in an office off the
machine shop, and another man nearly 20 meters from there, before he
climbed stairs to a second-storey level overlooking the huge machine
shop and stores area.
There Lebrun shot and killed himself. He shot nine
rounds in all. Police found another 36 on him when they discovered his
"His intention was to exact some kind of
revenge" says Davidson.
That much is gleaned from the letter, which Davidson
said could be read as a suicide note. It has not yet been released.
Store clerk with 18 years' service.
Brian Guay, 57
Shipper-receiver, 23 years' service.
David Lemay, 45
Mechanic who had 18 years' service.
Harry Schoenmakers, 45
Mechanic with 25 years' service.