(CNN) — During a long standing ovation by grateful lawmakers Thursday morning, the sergeant-at-arms credited with downing a gunman at Canada’s Parliament appeared emotional.
Kevin Vickers, who regularly leads a procession into the House of Commons as sessions begin, said in a written statement that he was “very touched” by the attention but added that he has “the support of a remarkable security team that is committed to ensuring the safety of Members, employees and visitors” to Parliament.
On behalf of the House security team, he said that he wanted to extend “our deepest condolences” to the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was shot and killed by the gunman as he stood guard the National War Memorial near Parliament.
Vickers and his team are also thinking about Constable Samearn Son, who was shot in the leg, and, Vickers noted, is in stable condition and expected to make a full recovery.
Son, Vickers said, has worked with the security team for a decade.
The sergeant-at-arms is accustomed to being in the middle of big things, but never before like this.
Members of Parliament, the media and the public hailed the 58-year-old.
“Kevin is definitely a hero,” said Matt Miller, the Vancouver Observer’s parliamentary bureau chief, who was in his office just above Vickers and the shooting.
Miller recalled hearing one shot, followed quickly by about three dozen rounds before the gunfire ceased.
Authorities haven’t officially confirmed Vickers’ actions in stopping the shooting. But, according to parliamentarian Craig Scott, it was the sergeant-at-arms who ended the ordeal outside the building’s caucus rooms.
Scott tweeted, “MPs and Hill staff owe their safety, even lives, to Sergeant at Arms Kevin Vickers.”
Had a ceremonial and law enforcement role
Vickers isn’t a stranger to the spotlight, although he’s typically on the edge of it.
When world leaders come through Ottawa, he is often right beside them at the House of Commons. Photo after photo from the past few years show him, a handful of Canadian politicians and the international figures — from Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye — on hand.
This is all part of the ceremonial duties of sergeant-at-arms, a position that’s been occupied by only 10 people since its inception in 1867. Vickers, for instance, is sometimes charged with carrying a special sword in the commission of his duties.
Yet, for all the pomp and circumstance, Vickers is above all a man of the law. That speaks to his bigger role at the House of Commons as its top law enforcement officer, charged with overseeing security on the grounds and safeguarding various officials.
To put what he did Wednesday in perspective, consider this: He was like a police chief or sheriff who takes out his weapon and ends a violent attack.
On the one hand, Vickers isn’t new to law enforcement, having spent 28 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Yet despite all that time, his brother believes that Wednesday was the first time Vickers ever exchanged gunfire with anyone.
“For it now to happen at Parliament … is unbelievable,” John Vickers told CNN. “We’re just relieved he’s OK.”
Reporter who knows Vickers calls him ‘an utmost professional’
John Vickers describes his brother as “an exemplary individual who, throughout … his career, put his country and his community first.”
That includes all his years with Canada’s national police force, including a high-profile stint in the province of New Brunswick during a tense time there.
“He was always cool under pressure; he was always respectful and accommodating,” Andree Lau, a former CBC journalist who is now The Huffington Post’s British Columbia news editor, told CNN.
Lau remembers Vickers, from the time she met him in the 2000s, as “a stand-up guy (who is) well-trained.”
Asked about his exploits Wednesday, Lau said, “It’s not surprising at all. Because (Vickers) is an utmost professional.”
Vickers left the RCMP to become the House of Commons’ security director, the CBC reported. He became sergeant-at-arms in 2006, where he has impressed many with his demeanor as much as his professionalism.
Tweeted Glenn Thibeault, a parliamentarian from Sudbury: “Sgt at arms Kevin Vickers-nicest guy you’ll ever meet. I am lucky to call him a friend.
“Today he is also our hero and we are 4evr grateful.”