By Randall Palmer and Leah Schnurr
OTTAWA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The guard credited with killing a gunman in Canada's parliament fought back tears as lawmakers greeted him with a prolonged standing ovation, cheers and whistles on Thursday when he resumed his duties.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and fellow lawmakers stood for a thunderous, minutes-long ovation as Kevin Vickers, Canada's Sergeant-at-Arms, led the traditional parade that opens every session of the House of Commons, dressed in ceremonial garb.
Vickers, a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officer who is in charge of parliamentary security, was reportedly in his office on Wednesday morning when a gunman ran into the Center Block of Parliament through the open front door, with police and security guards in pursuit.
Vickers, 58, drew his handgun and fired multiple shots at the gunman, according to media reports. Forensic investigation is expected to determine how the gunman died in what has been described as a hail of bullets.
Canadian police were investigating a man named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau as the possible suspect, said a source familiar with the matter. U.S. officials said they had been advised he was also a convert to Islam.
On Thursday, Vickers went back to work.
Dressed for ceremony in black suit and hat, white tie and carrying a silver sword and golden mace, Vickers led the Speaker's Parade through the halls of parliament, where staff and security lined the route and applauded, some in tears.
Once in the House of Commons, Vickers laid the mace on the center table and was greeted by the ovation from members of parliament. The gray-haired Vickers, holding back tears, nodded his thanks several times.
"I am very touched by the attention directed at me following yesterday's events," Vickers said in a statement that shared credit with his security team. "As this is an ongoing investigation, I unfortunately cannot comment any further at this time."
The prime minister crossed the floor to shake Vickers' hand and hug him, and the leaders of both opposition parties all offered similar tribute.
"Kevin, without your service a terrible situation would have become much worse," Liberal leader Justin Trudeau said in parliament.
Opposition leader Thomas Mulcair praised Vickers and his security team: "The courage and professionalism they showed in the face of such brutality embodies what is the best in what it means to be Canadian."
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May got a smile and a thumbs-up from Vickers when she suggested letting him go fly-fishing in Miramichi, his hometown in rural New Brunswick.
Canadians have hailed Vickers, a decorated police veteran who has previously advocated "no walls around Canada's parliamentary buildings," as a hero.
"Anyone who thought Canada's Sergeant-at-Arms role was an archaic novelty now understands the man holding the scepter has a deadly serious job," the Calgary Sun newspaper wrote.
Twitter user @jm_mcgrath tweeted: "Bill C-633, the Kevin Vickers never pays for his own drinks in this country again Act." (Writing by Andrea Hopkins; Editing by Howard Goller)