March 28 (UPI) — A Canadian man who fatally shot six worshippers at a Quebec City mosque in early 2017 pleaded guilty Wednesday, asking for forgiveness from the families of the victims.
Alexandre Bissonnette, 28, changed his not guilty plea to guilty on six counts of first-degree murder and six counts of attempted murder.
On January 29, 2017, he opened fire in the prayer room at Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec, killing six men and injuring five. One of the attempted murder charges collectively represents the 35 people at the mosque who witnessed the shooting.
“I would like to ask you to forgive me for all the wrongs that I have done but I know what I did is unforgivable,” Bissonnette said in court to the families and victims.
“I don’t know why I did something so foolish,” he added. “I’m not a terrorist, nor an Islamophobe. I was taken over by fear, by negative thinking, by desperation.”
Bissonnette originally pleaded not guilty to the charges Monday on advice from his lawyer. He intended to plead guilty, but his lawyer said he should first review all the prosecution’s evidence.
He told Judge Francois Huot later Monday he would like to change his plea to guilty, at which point the judge ordered a psychiatric evaluation for the defendant.
Psychiatrist Sylvain Faucher told the judge Bissonnette understood the consequences of the plea deal. He faces at least 150 years in prison. Bissonnette said he wanted to spare the families and victims the pain of a trial.
“I would like to go back in time and change things. Sometimes I have the impression that all of this is just a terrible dream, a long nightmare,” Bissonnette said.
Those killed in the mass shooting included Ibrahima Barry, Mamadou Tanou Barry, Khaled Belkacemi, Abdelkrim Hassane, Azzeddine Soufiane and Aboubaker Thabti.
“I think the events that took place last year were very traumatic,very difficult,” he said. “No one really wants to live those traumatic days again,” Amir Belkacemi, the son of Khaled Belkacemi, told the CBC.