MONTREAL — The police in Quebec City said on Sunday that they had arrested a man dressed in medieval garb and brandishing a sword after a series of stabbings on Halloween night left at least two people dead and five others wounded.
The attacks occurred late Saturday in a historic district of Quebec City near the building that houses the provincial Parliament.
“People are shocked. It has all the ingredients of a horror film, a man disguised who goes out on Halloween and kills people,” said Hadi Hassin, a local journalist who lives in the area. “I go out every night in the district and will be spooked for a while.”
Robert Pigeon, chief of police in Quebec City, said that the suspect was 24 and that the attack appeared to have been premeditated and motivated by personal reasons. He said that the suspect came from the suburbs north of Montreal, was not associated with any terrorist organization and did not have a previous criminal record, but the police chief added that medical records from five years ago showed that the man had previously threatened an act of violence.
The police chief said that the attacker had used a Japanese-style sword and had lunged at his victims, appearing to choose them randomly. He said the attacker had acted “with the intention of doing the most damage possible” and noted that officers were investigating 25 crime scenes. The suspect was expected to appear in court via video conference on Sunday, he added.
Chief Pigeon said that some of the five wounded people, who were all residents of Quebec City, had suffered severe lacerations but that their injuries did not appear to be life-threatening. “All the citizens of our city are in mourning,” he added.
Maitreyi Pal-Singh, a medical student from New York who lives in the district where the attack took place, said she was walking home around 10:45 p.m. on Saturday when she saw police cars circulating. She said that she had stayed up all night with a neighbor and had locked herself in her apartment for the most part, venturing out periodically to look through a window near a stairway to try and determine what was happening.
“Police shut down my street. It was terrifying — it was Halloween and there were some kids dressed as Batman or Spider-Man trick-or-treating before everything was closed,” she said. “You don’t expect something like this to happen in Canada and especially Quebec City.”
Régis Labeaume, Quebec City’s mayor, said the assault brought back bad memories of 2017, when a gunman killed six people at a mosque in the city. He said that, like that attack, the assault on Sunday was an isolated incident and suggested that mental health issues appeared to be the root cause.
“I have a feeling of playing again in an old movie,” Mr. Labeaume said, referring to the mosque attack and calling for a nationwide debate on how to confront mental illness. “This city is one of the safest in the world,” he added.
Quebec City, the province’s political center, is a relatively sleepy, picturesque city that typically attracts throngs of tourists. But it has been buffeted by the coronavirus pandemic, with restaurants and bars closed. Mr. Hassin, the journalist, said that the historic district had been very quiet in recent weeks. He said that not many people had been on the streets or in disguise Saturday night and that Halloween parties had been canceled.
The police said they began searching for the attacker after receiving a call just before 10:30 p.m. Saturday. They discovered victims in several locations, including near the Château Frontenac hotel, an imposing building that is a landmark in the city.
Witnesses told Le Soleil, a Quebec City newspaper, that a victim found near the hotel had been covered with blood.
The police advised residents to avoid the Parliament Hill neighborhood and to lock themselves inside as they searched for the attacker. During a two-hour hunt, dozens of armed officers, including some with dogs, combed the area. A man was arrested shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday near the city’s waterfront.
According to Radio Canada, a French-language broadcaster, the suspect was apprehended after a security guard at Quebec’s Old Port saw a man fitting the police description. Local news reports said that the suspect had been found crouching on the floor, barefoot, and that he had not resisted arrest.
The police said on Twitter at 4:20 a.m. that the situation was under control.
Nicholas Lescarbeau, who lives in the area where the rampage took place, said he was at home when worried friends called to check on him and warned him to remain inside. He said residents were deeply shaken. “This is a close-knit neighborhood, and we all know each other,” he said. “It is shocking what happened but we are happy it is over.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and François Legault, the premier of Quebec, offered their condolences to the families of the victims. Mr. Legault wrote on Twitter, “Quebec is waking up after a night of horror.”
Dan Bilefsky reported from Montreal, and Austin Ramzy from Hong Kong.