Canadian military reservist Nathan Cirillo was killed at gunpoint this week by a jihadist gunman in his nation’s capital, leaving behind a loving family and several adopted dogs for which loved ones say he harbored a deep devotion.
Those dogs, media sources report, remain waiting for Cirillo at his door, peering out his gate alongside makeshift memorials left for the fallen soldier. According to sources cited by the Daily Mail, Cirillo was known to be dedicated to helping dogs, owning two of his own and recently nursing a stray back to health. Canada’s CTV News reports that two dogs were seen by passersby leaving flowers in Cirillo’s honor peeking through the gate of his home in Hamilton, Ontario.
Both sources note that Cirillo’s Instagram account was filled with photos of his dogs, both those who lived with him and those he temporarily adopted to help them recover when found as strays or ill. He described them as “family.”
Cirillo leaves behind his mother and a 6-year-old son, who the Daily Mail notes Cirillo was raising on his own after the boy’s mother was “no longer in the picture.” It is believed that the boy, Marcus, will now live with his grandmother. Cirillo was 24.
Cirillo was a reservist in the Canadian military and was working his regular shift protecting the National War Memorial outside of the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday, when a man now identified as Michel Zehaf-Bibeau opened fire on him and attempted to enter the Parliament building. Cirillo was unarmed at the time.
Zehaf-Bibeau was eventually killed before causing any more harm by the Parliament’s Sergeant at Arms, 58-year-old Kevin Vickers. Vickers, a longtime veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is being widely celebrated in Canada as a hero; without his quick reaction to the crisis, Zehaf-Bibeau may have killed more innocents.
In an address to the nation, Prime Minister Stephen Harper honored Cirillo and made clear that he viewed Zehaf-Bibeau’s attack– widely believed to have been inspired by jihadist ideology– as a political attack “on our country, on our values…as a free and democratic people.” He added that Canada will continue to monitor individuals that appear at high-risk for jihadist activity; Zehaf-Bibeau himself was seen as a potential threat and had his passport delayed to prevent him from leaving the country, reports show. One Canadian reporter noted that there is evidence the government had been monitoring Zehaf-Bibeau, as he showed signs of inclinations towards radical Islam and could potentially join members of the Islamic State.