Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Marc Lépine's Gendercide: The Montreal Massacre

The Target

L'École Polytechnique de Montreal
L'École Polytechnique de Montreal

On December 6, 1989, classes were in session at the École Polytechnique at the University of Montreal, located on the north slope of Mont Royal. It was the largest engineering school in Canada, with about 5,000 students enrolled at that time. A six-story yellow brick building housed the classrooms and offices.

To the students it seemed like a normal day, if cold and drizzly. It was the last day of the session, with final presentations going on in different places. About 60 students sat in classroom C-230, on the building's second floor. It was just after 5 p.m., and the sky had darkened. For some, that made it easier to focus on the lecture offered by two students about the mechanics of heat transfer. The incident that day, only minutes away, would be covered extensively in Montreal's Gazette and the Toronto Star.

A thin, young man with a shaved head (according to one source, though others say he had shaved only his beard) and a white baseball cap, had been sitting for a while on a bench in the hall outside the registrar's office. Those who passed noticed that he wore jeans, work boots, and a blue-striped sweater, but because he also wore a gray parka, they could not see the design on the back — a skull wearing glasses, as reported later in The Gazette. He had a green plastic bag with him, although no one realized that inside was a lethal weapon, and beneath his sweater he had strapped on a sheath containing a six-inch hunting knife.

He looked agitated, as if he were waiting for someone who had failed to arrive. He made eye contact with no one, but his attitude was clear in his stiff posture and grim expression. When an employee in the office asked if he needed assistance, he got up, grabbed his bag without a word, and walked away. She didn't think much about it. The end of the semester was a tough time for students, and many were tired.

A few minutes after 5 p.m.,the halls had cleared and no one was about — no one who could raise an alarm. People in the offices were preparing to leave for the day. That, at least, would work in his favor.

Semi-automatic Mini-14 rifle
Semi-automatic Mini-14 rifle

With care, he removed a lightweight Sturm Ruger Mini-14, .223-caliber semi-automatic rifle from his bag, recalling how he had told the clerk at Checkmate Sports not long before that he was going after "small game." The clerk hadn't grasped the significance of the comment. Still amused by his little secret, the armed man strode toward classroom 230 (some say 303). This was the moment. He had attached a high-capacity banana clip magazine so he could fire 30 rounds in quick succession, and he had plenty of ammunition. He was ready. No one would forget this day. Small game, indeed.