A city and a nation were breathing a huge sigh of relief on June 6 as news spread that the shooter of three Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers had finally been arrested overnight after a massive manhunt that had part of Moncton, Canada on lockdown for 30 hours.
Alleged shooter Justin Bourque, 24, was arrested just after midnight early June 6 and was expected to be charged later that day, The Globe and Mail reported.
But the grieving was just beginning.
After withholding the identities of the three officers pending family notification, the RCMP released the names of the three who had been slaughtered in ambush.
The victims have been identified as Constables David Ross, 32, Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, and Douglas James Larche, 40, The Globe and Mail and other media reported. Ross, married for four years, had a 19-month-old son and another baby on the way. Gevaudan, originally from France, was a general duty officer as well as part of the RCMP dive unit, and Larche was a highway patrolman who in 2008 received a Commander’s Commendation for saving an unconscious baby’s life, The Globe and Mail said.
Two other officers were wounded but were “recovering well,” Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, the commanding officer for the RCMP in New Brunswick, told The Globe and Mail. They are Constable Darlene Gaudin and Constable Éric Dubois.
One of the darkest days in Moncton’s history both began and ended in the yards of an ordinary neighborhood. The tragedy began to unfold on Wednesday night June 4, according to numerous accounts, when at 7:20 p.m. police received reports of gunshots in a subdivision in the north end of Moncton, a 70,000-population city in southeastern New Brunswick, Constable Damien Theriault told Globalnews.ca. The search was initially concentrated there, Theriault said.
Witness Vanessa Bernatchez, who fled inside from her backyard after hearing gunshots and warnings, watched helplessly as an officer was gunned down right outside her window while she and her family tried to warn him that the shooter was behind him.
“We tried to warn the officer,” the 19-year-old Bernatchez told the National Post on June 5. “He seemed confused when he showed up of where he should place himself. We banged on the windows, we told him ‘turn around, turn around, he’s there.’ He turned around and it was too late. He got shot and he passed away.”
It ended in the backyard of Michelle Thibodeau, with Bourque’s arrest at 12:10 a.m. on Friday June 6. She watched as an Emergency Response Team vehicle spilled officers into her backyard and Bourque came out of a patch of trees at the foot of her yard, she told CBC News.
“Justin came out with his hands up, and he said, ‘I’m done,'” Thibodeau told the network. Police said he was unarmed when arrested.
Soon after, the RCMP sent out the news and told residents they were safe once more.
“Justin Bourque arrested by RCMP at 12:10 in Moncton,” the RCMP of New Brunswick tweeted. “He is in police custody. Residents of north Moncton can now leave their homes.”
A city breathed a sigh of relief, and the grieving began.
Throughout Canada, flags were flown at half-mast, according to the Cape Breton Post. The flag at the Peace Tower in Ottawa was among them, and Members of Parliament held a moment of silence in the House of Commons, reported the newspaper of neighboring province Nova Scotia.
“Now that we have the suspect in custody we have to focus on the future and moving forward to restore a sense of normalcy to our community,” said Superintendant Marlene Snowman of the RCMP’s Codiac region, where the slain officers were from, in a statement. “It will take some time to heal but together we will get there.”