Morris Wolfe - Essays, New & Selected


Kenniff, the only person at Concordia with the emergency power to suspend Fabrikant, refused. He didn’t have enough evidence, he said. Not only did Kenniff refuse to suspend Fabrikant, says Bertrand, who delivered the memo, he didn’t propose an alternative course of action. Not so, says the rector. Among other things, he urged Bertrand to tell the Sûreté du Québec not to grant Fabrikant’s request for a permit to carry a gun. Kenniff complains that having asked him to suspend Fabrikant, the two vice-rectors immediately went off on holiday. Sheinin and Bertrand deny that. If nothing else, the differing accounts of what happened make it clear how much at odds Kenniff was with his most senior administrators.

Members of the administration began exploring other ways to get rid of Fabrikant. In early July, the associate vice-rector of institutional relations and finance began talking to him about early retirement. (Fabrikant was just fifty-two.) The first offer was two years’ salary. Fabrikant asked for ten. The university raised its offer to three; Fabrikant asked for thirteen. At that point, the university ended the negotiations.

In an e-mail message dated July 19, Fabrikant described the procedural battle that had continued to be waged between his lawyer and the lawyer representing Swamy and Tom Sankar regarding his suit against them. He suggested that judges of the Quebec Supreme Court had been giving him a hard time because the chief justice, Alan Gold, was the chancellor of Concordia. “Is the Chief Justice (or should I say, Chief Injustice) Gold sending me a message that there is no way I can get justice in his court?” Swamy’s and Sankar’s lawyer pounced on Fabrikant’s statement and argued that he was in contempt of court.

By mid-August, Fabrikant was becoming increasingly agitated. He had, in fact, been charged with contempt, a charge that would be heard on August 25. On August 16, he sent Kenniff a note by e-mail, saying, “As you know, Dean Swamy has assigned me to teach ... two courses which are outside my field of expertise ... . You do not hesitate to jeopardize the quality of student education in your attempts to damage my reputation as a teacher ... . I shall not allow you to take students hostage. Please be advised that if you do not fix the situation by noon tomorrow ... an extraordinary legal action will be undertaken .... Do govern yourself accordingly.” Two days later, Fabrikant presented the university with a home-made injunction that stated, “WHEREAS I am a world-class scientist ... on the verge of an important scientific discovery ... [and] have been assigned to teach ... two courses ... outside my field of expertise ... [and] WHEREAS [the university] has offered me ... three ... years salary ... on ... condition that I [resign] and promise not to sue, [it’s clear that] the University does not need me to teach this term ... .” Therefore, declared his injunction, the court should order Concordia to grant him a sabbatical.

On August 19, Fabrikant received his second formal letter of warning from Sheinin about his continuing e-mail allegations. On Friday, August 21, with his contempt hearing due on Tuesday, Fabrikant transmitted an e-mail message, stating, “...very soon I might be in jail for contempt of court. I have dared to say publicly that the court is lawless and corrupt. If you hear that I have committed suicide in jail or was a victim of an accident, do not believe [it].” Also on Friday, Richard Beaulieu, external legal counsel to the university, sent Fabrikant a letter warning him that his job was in jeopardy. It’s not clear whether Fabrikant actually saw the letter. That afternoon, according to the Montreal Gazette, Maya Tyker, Fabrikant’s wife, picked up two guns she’d ordered from a catalogue — for use at her shooting club, she said. When she got home, she gave them to her husband for safekeeping.

round 2:30 p.m. on Monday, August 24, Fabrikant walked onto the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building, where the engineering faculty is housed. Fabrikant was carrying a briefcase that contained three handguns and many rounds of ammunition. First he went looking for Swamy and Osman. Neither was in. He headed to his own tiny office where he was scheduled to meet Michael Hogben, the president of the Concordia faculty association (CUFA). Hogben attempted to give Fabrikant a letter setting out the conditions under which he would be allowed to visit the CUFA offices. His access had to be limited, the letter informed him, because his behaviour was causing those who worked there “considerable distress.” (Video surveillance equipment had already been installed by CUFA as a result of Fabrikant’s harassment of its staff.) Fabrikant took out his.38 calibre pistol and shot Hogben three times. Hogben fell to the floor and bled to death, clutching his letter. A faculty colleague, Jaan Saber, called out from his office across the way. Fabrikant crossed the hall and fired two shots into Saber, who died in hospital the next day. Back in the corridor, heading towards Osman’s office again, he fired at a fleeing Elizabeth Horwood, wounding her in the thigh. He then worked his way through the maze of ninth floor corridors to the other side of the building and into the office of Phoivos Ziogas, chair of the electrical and computer-engineering department, who was in conversation with Otto Schwelb, another colleague. Fabrikant shot Ziogas twice; he died in hospital a month later. In a scuffle with Schwelb, Fabrikant lost his pistol. Schwelb, unaware that Fabrikant had two other guns in his briefcase, went back to tend to Ziogas. Matthew Douglass, a professor of civil engineering who was known to be close to Swamy, tried to reason with Fabrikant, who had headed back to the dean’s offices. He was shot four times and died almost instantly. (None of the three engineering professors murdered by Fabrikant had been a significant player in the drama.) Fabrikant now took a security guard and a professor hostage, locked himself in an office with them and informed a 911 operator that he had just “made several murders” and wanted to talk to a TV reporter. He stayed on the line for an hour. When he put his gun down to adjust the phone, the professor kicked it away and the security guard overpowered him.

Dr. Fabrikant's Solution, continued > 

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