A former Canadian university student has pleaded guilty to killing six men who were praying in a Quebec City mosque in January 2017, a court said on Wednesday, averting a trial in one of the country’s rare mass shootings.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 28, handcuffed and wearing leg irons as he entered the Quebec City courtroom, had asked on Monday to change his previous plea of not guilty.
Quebec Superior Court Justice François Huot imposed a publication ban on the guilty plea and ordered Bissonnette to undergo a psychiatric examination to ensure he knew the consequences of his decision.
Speaking to the courtroom, which included members of the mosque, the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, Bissonnette said he regretted what he did and decided to plead guilty to spare the families the hardship of a trial.
“I am ashamed of what I did,” he said. “I am not a terrorist, I am not an Islamophobe.”
The judge declared him guilty on six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.
The slightly built, dark-haired Bissonnette looked down and at times wiped away tears as the judge read out the names of the mosque shooting victims.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau initially described the shooting as a terrorist attack, although prosecutors did not charge Bissonnette with terrorism.
Police have described him as a “lone wolf” attacker.
Mass shootings are rare in Canada, where gun control laws are stricter than in the United States.
Sentencing arguments begin on April 10. Bissonnette faces at least 25 years in prison, and could receive concurrent sentences totaling more than 100 years.