MONCTON, N.B. – A man suspected of fatally shooting three New Brunswick Mounties and wounding two others in Moncton appeared Friday in provincial court, charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Justin Bourque, 24, was arrested shortly after midnight Friday inside a police perimeter in the city after one of the worst mass shootings in the RCMP’s history.
He appeared in court, packed with about 70 people, under heavy guard. A tactical officer with an automatic rifle stood at the back of the courtroom.
Before Bourque’s court appearance, a van was whisked into the court building followed by another vehicle carrying at least three tactical officers.
Bourque, who has long brown hair and a scruffy beard, wore what appeared to be green hospital scrubs. He did not speak or show any emotion, staring forward at the judge during the five-minute court appearance.
Bourque was remanded to appear in court July 3 after the Crown and defence asked for a month to prepare.
The RCMP say the Moncton man was unarmed at the time of his arrest and taken into custody without incident.
The Mounties’ nerve-racking manhunt came to an end at around 12:10 a.m., ending a search that lasted nearly 30 hours and kept the small city of 69,000 people on edge. A large swath of northwestern Moncton had been locked down after the officers were shot Wednesday evening, with residents asked to remain inside their homes with their doors locked.
Supt. Marlene Snowman says while Bourque was unarmed when he was arrested, police found weapons near the wooded residential area where he was taken into custody.
Snowman had to pause to gather her composure as she thanked residents for keeping their outdoor lights on, which she said helped police in their night-time search.
“It has been a very challenging 30 hours or more for the officers who worked around the clock to get this done,” she told a news conference earlier in the day.
Assistant Commissioner Roger Brown, the Mounties’ commanding officer in the province, says it will take time for the department to heal as he released the names of the officers who were killed and injured.
Brown said the officers who died were: Const. Dave Ross, 32, originally of Victoriaville, Que.; Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, originally of Boulogne-Billancourt in France; and Const. Douglas James Larche of Saint John, N.B.
He said Larche, who worked in Miramichi before he joined the detachment in the Moncton area, was a highway patrol and general duty officer who received a commander’s commendation six years ago for saving the life of an unconscious baby in Moncton.
Larche had been a member of the RCMP for 12 years.
Brown said Ross joined the RCMP from Ottawa after graduation in July 2007 and was posted to the detachment based in Moncton as a general duty police officer.
Linda Ross, the aunt of Ross, told The Canadian Press on Friday that her nephew leaves behind his wife Rachel and an 18-month-old son. She said Rachel has another baby due in September.
“Dave has been married for four years and he was perfectly happy, he had found his soulmate,” Ross said in a telephone interview from Victoriaville.
“He was really happy, really passionate about his work and he was an excellent person.”
Brown said Gevaudan was born in France and joined the RCMP in Regina. After his graduation from the training academy on Feb. 11, 2008, Brown said Gevaudan was posted to the detachment in Moncton as a general duty police officer.
The injured officers are constables Darlene Goguen and Eric Dubois.
“Fortunately, most people will never have to experience what our officers have gone through in the past couple of days,” Brown said. “Their resilience is truly remarkable.”
He said members of the RCMP will rally around the families of the fallen and the injured officers as the city also deals with the aftermath of the shootings.
“This is not something that anybody wants to live through. We all know that. The only way that we’re going to get through this is together,” he said.
“This is the start of a very long road for all of us.”
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney commended the RCMP for showing bravery in the manhunt under “the worst of circumstances during recent days.”
“Tragic incidents such as this are a profound reminder of the risks our police officers assume every day in protecting the safety and security of all Canadians,” he said. “Canadians are grateful for your dedication.”
The CN Tower was to be lit Friday night in honour of the three officers who died in the line of duty. The landmark in downtown Toronto will be lit in red, blue and gold, the colours of the RCMP guidon.
In Prince Edward Island, the RCMP thanked residents for an outpouring of support that included people visiting their detachments with food and flowers.
Brown said almost 300 officers from different parts of the country were involved in the search for Bourque, who is not known to police.
A woman who watched members of a tactical unit arrest the Moncton man in the frontyard of her home said the experience was scary.
“They started yelling, ‘Come out with your hands up!’ and they had their guns loaded,” said Michelle Thibodeau, 21.
“About five minutes later, Justin surrendered himself and he said, ‘I’m done,’ and then they arrested him and brought him to my frontyard where they had him sprawled on the ground.”
Moncton had been at a virtual standstill up until the arrest, with buses pulled off the roads, government buildings shut down and schools closed as the RCMP scoured the streets for a heavily armed man.
Colin Slaunwhite, 24, said his mother was frantic because he had not been able to return home until Friday morning after playing hockey Wednesday.
“Relief. A whole bag full of emotions,” Slaunwhite said after he learned he could return home.
Police including tactical officers began their manhunt Wednesday at around 7:30 p.m. when they responded to a call about a man walking along a road with what was believed to be a gun.
After the call, shots were fired and officers called for backup.
The RCMP said Thursday that of the two wounded officers, one was released from hospital and the other had injuries that were not considered life-threatening.
Cpl. Danny Falls said while RCMP members were pleased to bring a measure of relief to residents, the force was contending with mixed emotions.
“There obviously have been long days and we suffered significant loss,” Falls said. “It will take some time to heal from that.”