— Domani Spero
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On October 22, 2014, a gunman now identified by police as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (32) fatally shot Corporal Nathan Cirillo, a soldier on guard duty at the Canadian National War Memorial in Ottawa, Canada. Following the shootings, downtown Ottawa was placed on lockdown while police searched for any potential additional shooters. According to media reports, the lockdown lasted into the evening and ended at 8:25 p.m. ET, when the safety perimeter in downtown Ottawa was lifted.
Earlier that day, we saw this news clip from ABC7 I-Team Investigation. The US Mission Canada has about a thousand employees, but okay, Ambassador Heyman is the best known Chicago man at the mission:
Ambassador Heyman retweeted Embassy Ottawa’s tweet that post is in lockdown. Apparently, 421 tweeple, (including this blog) also retweeted that embassy tweet.
On October 23, ABC7 made a follow-up report:
CHICAGO (WLS) — During the height of the attack on Canada’s capital Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador Bruce Heyman retweeted his Embassy’s statement that “we are currently on lockdown.”
As it turns out, Ambassador Heyman, a former Chicago investment banker, was not locked down in the Embassy or even in Ottawa, the I-Team has learned. It is unclear where he was.
We were told by Embassy press assistant Jennifer Young that “the Ambassador is not available for interviews at this time. As far as the situation here in Ottawa, what I can tell you about this evolving situation is that the embassy is currently locked down.”
We were not informed by Ms. Young that the ambassador was actually not present and his retweet that “we are currently on lockdown” suggested he was indeed hunkered down with his staff. A woman who answered Ambassador Heyman’s cell phone did not say that he was out of the office and took a message which was not returned. Heyman did not respond to emails or social media messages.
On Thursday, after we reported that the ambassador was locked down with the rest of his staff, his public affairs chief Diane Sovereign contacted the I-Team, stating that “the Ambassador was not in the Embassy yesterday and has not returned to Ottawa.” Ms. Soveriegn said that they “don’t post the Ambassador’s location on the Embassy website.”
We repeatedly asked Embassy officials for the whereabouts of the ambassador during the incident and whether he was in Chicago. The spokesperson would not say where he was, nor why he wasn’t in the Embassy at the time of the attack that occurred about a quarter-mile away. His staff members at the Embassy were on security lockdown for more than eight hours on Wednesday.
Typically, our ambassadors are engage in external relations while his/her deputy chief of mission manages the internal business of the embassy. So it would not at all be surprising if the ambassador was not inside the embassy that day.
On October 21, @BruceAHeyman tweeted this:
We understand that #TechDayontheHill was held in Ottawa, so we know that the day before the incident, he was in Ottawa.
On October 22, he retweeted several official USG messages from the White House, the National Security Council, and the State Department related to the Ottawa attack. According to Ottawa Citizen, upwards of 50 ambassadors were in Regina on Wednesday, (the day of the attack) for an economic forum, organized for the diplomatic corps by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development and the government of Saskatchewan. So maybe he was in Saskatchewan that day?
Then, it looks like he was in Ontario on October 23:
— U.S. Embassy Ottawa (@usembassyottawa) October 23, 2014
So if Ambassador Heyman “has not returned to Ottawa,”when the lockdown occurred, he could have been in Saskatchewan or traveling to Ontario for that speech?
We don’t think anyone expects the embassy to post on its website the ambassador’s location but his whereabouts during the Ottawa attack is certainly of public interest. He is President Obama’s personal representative in Canada. We expect that as chief of mission, he would have been in constant contact with the embassy. If he was not in lockdown with his staff, where was he?
We know that some sections at some posts have instructions not to talk to this blog. We don’t know how widespread is that instruction so we wrote to Embassy Ottawa’s public affairs folks anyway and see if we can get some clarification on the ambassador’s whereabouts.
On October 27, we heard back from Diane Sovereign, Embassy Ottawa’s Cultural Attaché who told us that on October 22, Ambassador Heyman was on “a pre-scheduled trip for meetings in the Toronto area and was not in the Embassy at all on that day.” The ABC affiliate reporting about the embassy’s Chicago connection incorrectly assume that Ambassador Heyman was inside the embassy during the lockdown. Ms. Sovereign said that “At no point on October 22 did any media outlet ask us about the Ambassador’s location or ask us to confirm that he was inside the Embassy.” Following the original report talking about Ambassador Heyman “caught in the mayhem” and locked down inside the Embassy, Embassy Ottawa reportedly reached out to the ABC affiliate asking that the inaccuracies be corrected.
The response we received from Embassy Ottawa did point out that the embassy, for understandable reasons, does not make public the ambassador’s schedule or location but — there actually was a second part to that response — if asked:
“For security reasons, we normally do not make public the Ambassador’s travel schedule or specific location. However, if asked, we have no issue confirming whether the Ambassador is or is not inside the Embassy,” Ms. Sovereign said.
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