Peter Henderson heard gunshots ring out late Wednesday morning from the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, Canada, as workers were rolling into the office a little late, coffee in hand.
“I was locking my bike up, and I heard four shots,” said Henderson, a journalist who reports on the telecom market.
He looked toward the memorial’s soaring granite arch and saw a fallen soldier, in ceremonial uniform with white gloves. The soldier had been standing guard at the monument with a second soldier.
“I saw one of the soldiers laying on the ground,” Henderson said.
The soldier appeared to be shot in the back, with “catastrophic” wounds, Henderson said. That soldier later died, according to a statement from the Ottawa Police Service and Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Other witnesses, including members of Parliament, flooded social media with accounts of the attack, including photos and videos. Collectively they painted a portrait of chaos breaking out on an otherwise routine day near the corridors of power in the Canadian capital.
Police reported at least two shooting incidents in downtown Ottawa: at the National War Memorial Museum and on Parliament Hill.
“Numerous gunmen” were involved, said Marc Soucy of the Ottawa Police Service. At least one shooter is dead, the police statement said, and no one is in custody as the joint police operation continues.
In the immediate aftermath of the war-memorial shooting, the second soldier on guard duty “ran for cover,” Henderson said. The guards are thought to hold rifles that are not loaded, he added.
The shots sounded like they came from a high-powered rifle, Henderson said.
Later, bystanders rushed to the fallen soldier and began to perform CPR, he explained.
“To the best of my knowledge, (he) looked like … a young man,” Henderson said. “It appeared as though he had been hit in the back several times.”
At Parliament, shots rang out at around 10 a.m. ET as Parliament members, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, prepared for caucus. Some members tweeted that they heard many shots.
MP Tony Clement tweeted that he heard “at least 30 shots” and apparently was able to take cover with colleagues.
He tweeted that Harper was secure.
Canadian Deputy House Leader Kevin Lamoureux was attending a caucus meeting when security told everyone to clear the building.
“I honestly thought it was a fire alarm situation,” Lamoureux told CNN.
As soon as he was leaving the caucus room, he heard the gunfire, he said.
“I heard rapid fire — gunshots going very loud — and I figure maybe 20-plus shots within 10 seconds,” Lamoureux said.
He was inside Parliament, on the ground floor, when shots rang out. He was one level below the gunshots and was among those who were evacuated and moved to safety in another building nearby.
There was panic as people rushed out a door, he said. Lamoureux said he heard no screaming or other sounds before the shots rang out.
Lamoureux also saw the prime minister’s motorcade leave the building.
Parliament member Kyle Seeback tweeted: “Horrific day on parliament hill. Shots fired inside centre block during our caucus meeting. I’m safe locked in a office awaiting security.”
Another member Tony Clement tweeted, “I’m with colleagues Mark Strahl and Kyle Seeback. PM was in Caucus but now secure. Assuming it’s not safe to venture out yet …”
Clement tweeted that there were “at least 30 shots.”
Ottawa journalist Josh Wingrove told CNN that he saw someone injured — he described it as a motionless “body” — in the main building, near the entrance to the Parliament library, following the gunfire.
Wingrove was inside Parliament and heard dozens of shots.
Wednesday morning’s gunfire in the main Parliament building started in the foyer, and a second round of shooting happened about a minute later in a hallway or near the entrance to the Parliament’s library, Wingrove said. Several officers had weapons drawn, and most of the dozens of shots that he heard appear to have been fired by officers at the gunman, Wingrove said.
Wingrove was among those forced to remain in the building during a police lockdown, as officers checked each room, he said on his Twitter account.
After the gunfight, “the smell of gunpowder is heavy in the hallways,” he tweeted.
Member of Parliament John McKay recalled hearing “pop, pop, pop” as he was entering his caucus room.
“There’s a lot of construction going on on Parliament Hill. That’s what I assumed it was,” McKay said.
After security ushered him and others outside in the back of the Parliament buildings, “a construction guy says maybe if there’s people inside shooting, maybe we should be standing behind one of the monuments instead of standing out here like sitting ducks,” McKay said.
McKay and the group then found a monument as a shield against a potential gunman, he said.
As the group talked about how the gunman apparently ventured near caucus rooms, “at that point things really started to sink in and you realize it’s a significant incident,” McKay said.