The final pictures of the reservist soldier shot dead by a gunman as he stood guard over Canada’s War memorial have emerged.
Corporal Nathan Cirillo, 24, a part-time reservist serving with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada regiment, was photographed by tourists just minutes before he was fatally injured by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Friends and family described him as a “great father” and a “kind and gentle man”.
Thousands took to social media to express their sadness and loss over the death of the young father who dreamt of joining the Canadian military fulltime, having joined the Argyll’s as a teenager.
“He was a wonderful young man. Not an enemy in the world,” said Corporal Cirillo’s aunt, who asked that her name be withheld, to the Globe and Mail. She added that he was training to join the Canada Border Services Agency.
Corporal Cirillo, who was a personal trainer and bouncer as well as working part-time for the military, leaves behind six-year-old son Marcus.
Writing on a Facebook page dedicated to Corporal Cirillo, who grew up in the Canadian city of Hamilton, Ontario, Alyson Louise said: “He was an amazing father and his smile would grow with every word he spoke about his son.”
Yesterday, Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina visited Corporal Cirillo’s family and paid tribute to the corporal, saying he came from a “beautiful home. Clean as a whip. Pictures of Nathan and his two sisters on the wall. It was the kind of place that any of us would feel right at home going into."
Photos and comments posted by Corporal Cirilloon social media reveal a man who cared deeply for animals – he was the proud owner of a German Shepherd, who he affectionately nicknamed ‘my girl’ – and a keen guitar player.
A month ago he found and rescued an abandoned puppy, recruiting a vet to help nurse the discarded animal back to health, before finding the dog a new home.
A Facebook tribute page to Corporal Cirillo gathered thousands of likes and comments, with many seeking to share their moments of the young man.
Writing anonymously, one user posted: “He was very respectful about other beliefs and cultures. Whenever we went out I would tell him I do not drink, while other friends in our circle were peer pressuring me to try he would step in.”
Mel added: "He was a total sweetheart that stole my heart practically right away. He was a kind and gentle man with the smile that could light up any room he entered. He was always happy and always making jokes."
The events that shook Canada began shortly before 10am on Wednesday when Zehaf-Bibeau opened fire on Cirillo at the National War Memorial opposite Parliament Hill, killing him with a rifle at what witnesses described as point-blank range.
The gunman is believed to have then got into a car and driven up to the main Parliament Centre Block building, where he engaged in a gun battle with police and was shot dead by the 58-year-old sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.
A petty criminal with a string of minor convictions dating back to 2001, Zehaf-Bibeau had recently converted to Islam and dreamed to travelling to the Middle East to study Arabic, Canadian media reported.
According to CTV News, the Canadian federal government had deemed Zehaf-Bibeau a “high-risk traveller”. It also quoted a source as confirming that officials had seized the suspect’s passport.
Various Canadian media outlets reported concerns over Zehaf-Bibeau’s mental state, with court records apparently showing that he was made to undergo a psychiatric assessment prior to a 2011 robbery conviction. He was found fit to stand trial.
The Ottawa shooting comes just two days after a man described as an “Isis-inspired terrorist” ran over two Canadian soldiers, killing one of them. Combined, the attacks have raised fears the country is experiencing a retaliation for its involvement in US-led strikes in Syria and Iraq.
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