MONTREAL – The man accused in the deadly shooting at a Parti Quebecois gathering was slapped with 16 criminal charges Thursday including first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and arson.
The prosecution hasn’t ruled out an additional charge of attempted murder as it investigates whether premier-elect Pauline Marois was an intended target in the shooting.
Richard Henry Bain made his first court appearance under heavy security, still wearing a hospital bracelet and a small bandage on his arm. He appeared for less than a minute in a high-security courtroom.
Wearing a white T-shirt and blue sweat pants, Bain briefly chatted with a legal-aid lawyer before the hearing and was remanded into custody until October.
The fishing-camp owner has an arsenal of weapons, according to the prosecution.
He legally owns nearly two dozen guns and had five weapons with him when he attempted to enter Montreal’s Metropolis club on election night, it says.
The weapon used in the shooting was a legally registered long gun. Bain is also accused of pointing a second weapon — a hand gun — at a provincial police officer.
During the attack, Marois was giving her election victory speech and she had to be whisked off the stage. None of the current charges relates to any attack against her.
But the lead prosecutor in the case said nothing’s been ruled out.
“The investigation is going on and we’ll see in the future if there are other charges that have to be added to the ones in the file,” said prosecutor Eliane Perreault.
Bain appeared in court to face the charges behind protective glass, in a high-security courtroom. He appeared calm and alert, scanning the room filled with reporters and several friends of the victim, Denis Blanchette.
One of the friends held out Blanchette’s photo as Bain entered the room.
Bain’s lawyer did not request a psychiatric evaluation for her client.
A man who described himself as one of Bain’s good friends told The Canadian Press on Wednesday that the suspect took medication to treat a mental illness and made regular visits to a doctor at a Montreal hospital. He was brought to hospital after his arrest. Other media have, citing different sources, also reported that he was on medication for mental illness.
“He’s a medicated man,” said the friend, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “He was sick.”
The friend said there was no way the attack would have been political. However, as the suspect was being whisked to a police vehicle Tuesday night, he shouted that the, “English are waking up.”
Bain’s court-appointed lawyer, Elfriede Duclervil, said it was far too soon to make a request for a psychiatric evaluation.
“I think all of that is premature. I will have discussions with my client about this,” Duclervil said outside the courtroom.
“I spoke to him briefly. I didn’t speak to his doctor (yet).”
She said she has received some of the evidence gathered so far but will likely receive more when Bain’s case returns to court on Oct. 11.
Bain, who turns 62 this weekend, arrived at the courthouse in the back seat of a police vehicle as media waited outside.
The only images of him circulating earlier had been from the turbulent scene outside the Metropolis club, after one man was killed and another was injured during a political celebration.
An older photo of him standing next to Celine Dion had also been published in the local newspaper in Mont-Tremblant, Que., not far from where he lives.
Little else is known about the fishing-camp owner and what possible motivations he might have had for the shooting on election night.
A man tried to burst into the back of the club and shot two people outside, killing a stage technician.
A colleague of the victim, Denis Blanchette, said he was working for $15 an hour and had replaced her earlier in the day because she wanted to vote and pick up her daughter at school.
The other shooting victim, Dave Courage, 27, is recovering after undergoing surgery earlier in the week.
Police say the suspect then lit a fire in back of the club using a flare before he was tackled to the ground.
Several weapons were confiscated — including the long gun allegedly used in the shooting. As he was being whisked to the police vehicle, Bain shouted about an English awakening.
There has been some finger-pointing since the tragedy.
Some opponents of the PQ have blamed it for stoking linguistic anger. Some PQ supporters like the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste have, conversely, have blamed Anglo media for stirring up anti-PQ hatred. And others have used the case as an argument for stricter gun control.
However, the overwhelming reaction has been a call for unity and for avoiding the temptation to link the tragedy to politics. That has been the message so far from politicians, most public personalities and from a friend of Blanchette’s who spoke at a vigil in Montreal.
“We do not know much about Richard Bain, but enough to say this: the fatal attack Tuesday night was less political than psychiatric,” wrote Yves Boisvert in a column in La Presse on Thursday.
The long gun believed to have been used in the crime was registered, prosecutors said. According to the charges, the weapon was a Ceska Zbrojovka long gun. The gun looks a bit like an AK-47 assault weapon, but it can be legally owned in Canada.
The Crown says police seized five weapons at the scene and 17 others at Bain’s home — and all but one of those 22 were registered. He faces some charges for alleged storage violations.
Bain’s friend said he owned a hunting gun that resembled an AK-47. But that rifle, the man said, was used for hunting and unlike an AK-47 it could only hold clips containing a few rounds of bullets.
“It’s like a guy who has a Ferrari with only a Volkswagen engine,” the man said, comparing Bain’s hunting rifle with the more notorious weapon.
He said Bain was an excellent hunter who bagged moose and deer on the property. Bain also occasionally guided his clients on hunts in the area, the man said.