Jewish Professor’s Shooting Spree Rocks Montreal Jewish Community

A Soviet Jewish emigre’s shooting spree Monday at Concordia University has rocked the community and raised questions about whether the tragedy might have been prevented.

The incident occurred Monday, when the emigre, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Concordia who had just been denied tenure, angrily opened fire on his colleagues, killing two faculty members and wounding three others.

Valery Fabrikant, 52, a specialist in “elasticity theory” who came to Canada from Moscow 14 years ago, was arraigned in a Montreal courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

Following the shootings, he surrendered to police, but not before seizing two hostages, resulting in a tense 30-minute standoff. Both hostages were unharmed.

Fabrikant entered the university’s mechanical engineering department in the late afternoon, several hours after learning he had been denied tenure, apparently intent on setting scores with those he held responsible.

He allegedly shot dead Michael Hogben, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Matthew Douglas, a professor of civil engineering.

The wounded included Jann Saber, a Jewish associate professor of mechanical engineering who only recently had offered to help communal officials find jobs in the field of mechanical engineering for newly arrived Russian Jews.

Saber, whose wife, Sara, is a former regional director of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, was shot in back of the head and side and was reported in critical condition.

Also wounded were Phoivos Ziogas, chairman of the electrical and computer engineering department, and Elizabeth Horwood, secretary to the department chairman.

SEVERE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS

Fabrikant had apparently been experiencing severe psychological problems for some time.

“Everyone speculated as to whether (these problems) would cross the line to violence,” said Stephen Scheinberg, a Concordia history professor who chaired a university senate committee that last November heard grievances brought by Fabrikant against Concordia.

“All of us practiced denial, trying to believe it would not,” he said.

Scheinberg, who is chairman of B’nai B’rith Canada’s League for Human Rights, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Fabrikant was at one time a prisoner in a Siberian labor camp.

He said he was not sure of the extent of Fabrikant’s involvement in the Jewish community but said he believed he was “more Russian than Jewish.”

The handwriting had evidently been on the wall for some time, and observers said the shootings might have been prevented had Fabrikant’s actions been taken more seriously.

About three weeks ago, Fabrikant asked department secretary Harwood to sign a character handgun.

She refused but a neighbor at his Cote St. Luc apartment building complied.

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