GATINEAU, Quebec (AP) — A man fatally shot another man then killed himself at a day care center in Quebec on Friday, prompting authorities to evacuate the children as terror-stricken parents and guardians scrambled to retrieve their kids.
Gatineau Police Chief Mario Harel said all 53 children were safe and unharmed, and police speculated that some children likely witnessed the killings.
"It's a small area, it's a close space," said Harel. "For sure, they should have been witness (to) the event."
Harel said police received a call about an armed man with a shotgun threatening people. They arrived to find the man dead with a shotgun beside him and a second, unidentified employee of the day care, also dead. He said the shooting seemed to be related to a recent separation between a couple.
"We have two deceased. One of the males is responsible for this shooting. The other male works at this day care center," Haren said. "Right now we're investigating that this was related to a recent separation between a couple."
Omar Eltalawi rushed to the scene from his nearby home as soon as he heard about the shooting, fearful for his three-year-old daughter, Zain.
"It was horrible," Eltalawi said as he described the fear of not knowing what was going on inside the two side-by-side homes that house the Racines De Vie Montessori daycare.
"You see these things on the news and you don't expect it to happen to you."
A chilling scene played out in the aftermath of the shooting as visibly shaken parents sobbed and hugged while they waited for investigators to bring them to their children.
The daycare center sits across the street from a hospital in this Quebec city, just across the river from Ottawa.
Sergeant Jean-Paul LeMay said police received a report of a shooting in the morning.
LeMay said the kids were safe at a nearby house. He would not release details on who was killed or if the kids witnessed the shooting.
The shooting initially raised fears of a far worse incident such as the one months ago when 20 children and six educators were massacred in a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school in December.
Associated Press Writer Rob Gillies contributed to this report from Toronto.