Alexandre Bissonnette cut a low profile as a shy, withdrawn political science student, keen on far-right ideas.
Now, he stands accused of gunning down six worshippers at a Quebec mosque in one of the worst attacks ever to target Muslims in a western country.
The 27-year old grew up in a quiet suburb of Quebec City, posting online about friends, family and food.
He studied anthropology and political science at nearby Laval University, and most recently lived in a fourth-floor apartment with his twin brother that neighbors described as often noisy.
The apartment is one kilometer (0.6 miles) from the Sainte-Foy mosque where Bissonnette allegedly shot worshippers in the back.
His Facebook account has since been deleted, but an analysis of stored pages by SITE Intelligence Group — a US-based organization that monitors extremists’ activities — described his posts as “largely apolitical.”
“It is a cruelly banal profile that resembles many others and it is extremely difficult to perceive the evolution,” David Morin, co-director of the Observatory on Radicalization and Violent Extremism, told AFP.
Bissonnette went to classes at Laval University, read the essays of French poet Charles Baudelaire, and worked part-time at the province’s blood collection agency. It has expressed alarm over learning that one of its employees was suspected in the mosque shooting.
Although Bissonnette was not affiliated with any group, he appears to have embraced a “right-wing, a bit reactionary, somewhat anti-immigrant, anti-feminist ideology,” said Morin.
He espoused positions taken by US President Donald Trump, French National Front leader Marine Le Pen, and a Quebec group that rejects multiculturalism.
SITE Intelligence Group noted that on his Facebook page, “There were no posts about Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State (ISIS), or Muslims, nor were there any posts related to immigration.”
But he “liked” the pages of Le Pen, Trump and Quebec’s Generation Nationale.
– ‘The light went out’ –
Morin said it is always hard to determine exactly what will lead to a person’s break with reality, to an existential crisis, insecurity about their identity, and a need for self-affirmation.
In fact, this young man “may not even have been radicalized” to nationalist ideas. In a moment it is likely simply “the light went out,” he said.
This might explain why after allegedly carrying out these murderous acts, Bissonnette fled and called police to turn himself in.
Morin suggests parallels with a case in the US state of South Carolina in which Dylan Roof shot dead nine black parishioners at a church in 2015.
Profiles of the suspects in both cases run contrary to the fanatics who typically commit suicide, including blowing themselves up during or after an attack.
There were no obvious signs of Bissonnette’s predilection for violence. Prior to Le Pen’s controversial March 2016 visit to Quebec City, he showed little interest in politics, despite majoring in it at school, his friends told local media.
Former classmates described him as a quiet, unassuming guy who blended in. Others said he was introverted, socially awkward and frequently bullied in high school, but that he brushed it off.
People who knew him described him as having lately become a xenophobe, an ethnic nationalist and an online troll, but not a racist.
He denounced, for example, the flood of Syrian migrants into Europe last year.
“He was someone who made frequent extreme comments in social media denigrating refugees and feminism. It wasn’t outright hate, rather part of this new nationalist conservative identity movement that is more intolerant than hateful,” Francois Deschamps, who runs a refugee-support Facebook page, told the daily Globe and Mail.
One of Bissonnette’s last online postings was a photo circa 2002 of himself as a boy in a military cadet uniform, stone-faced.
Pro-Trump reporter John Solomon attacks Fiona Hill for debunking his Ukraine conspiracy theories
On Tuesday, National Security Council official Fiona Hill testified that the right-wing narrative Ukraine colluded with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 election — rather than Russia working to help Donald Trump — is a "fictional narrative" and a piece of propaganda promoted by Russia.
One person was enraged at this testimony — John Solomon, the notorious right-wing reporter who covered Ukraine's supposed interference in the 2016 election extensively. He fired off multiple angry tweets attacking Fiona Hill:
How dare Fiona Hill question my patriotism or suggest I was part of a Russian disinformation campaign without a single fact. My sources were all US officials or Ukrainian officials aligned against Russia. Her accusations must have made Joe McCarthy smile up from hell.
Democrats declare there’s enough evidence for a vote on impeaching Donald Trump: report
On Thursday, according to CNN House Democrats are announcing that they have enough evidence to move forward with the final vote to impeach President Donald Trump.
Breaking: Dems say enough evidence to move forward on impeachment. Vote likely by mid-December. They will not wait for courts to force additional witnesses - @Phil_Mattingly reporting.
— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) November 21, 2019
Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani accuses Mike Pompeo’s State Department of obstruction of justice
Keeping track of the Republican defenses of President Donald Trump got a little more difficult on Thursday when his private attorney appeared to throw his Secretary of State under the bus.
Rudy Giuliani suggested Secretary of State Mike Pompeo may have committed obstruction by refusing visas to three Ukrainians the former New York City mayor wants to testify about conspiracy theories.
"The embassy in Ukraine refuses to give visas for three witnesses, two present prosecutors and the former Prosecutor General, who have direct evidence of major Dem corruption in Ukraine in 2016," Giuliani argued.