Jun 05 2014
MONCTON, N.B. - Three RCMP officers were shot and killed and two officers injured in Moncton, N.B., on Wednesday as the Mounties conducted a manhunt through the night for a 24-year-old man who they tweeted a photo of wearing military camouflage and carrying two rifles.
The RCMP tweeted late Wednesday night that three of its officers were "mortally wounded'' and police spokesman Paul Greene confirmed their deaths. Greene said the two officers who were taken to hospital suffered non life-threatening injuries.
The RCMP said they were looking for Justin Bourque of Moncton, but other than his age police released no other information about him.
Const. Damien Theriault urged people in the area where police were searching to stay inside their homes and lock their doors. Many roads in the city of about 70,000 people were blocked by police.
"We are professionals. We will ensure the security of the public. We are going to do that,'' said Therault, who later broke down in tears at a media briefing with the city's mayor when he was asked how officers are balancing their grief and the difficult task of searching for the suspect in the dark.
Police responded to first incident involving the man at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, he said.
The RCMP say Bourque was spotted Thursday morning but they were unable to apprehend him.
Supt. Marlene Snowman said officers were continuing to search and that the suspect is carrying high-powered firearms.
Commanding Officer Roger Brown said the most recent sighting of the suspect was just after daylight Thursday and they were able to positively identify him.
Snowman said they were unable to confirm his identity on two other occasions when he might have been sighted.
Brown said police officers from across the country have been brought in to help arrest the suspect.
Daniel St. Louis, a commercial photographer in Moncton, was among the first on the scene Tuesday around 8:30 p.m. when he came across two police vehicles on different streets with blood visible inside.
He said no one was around, except for a few curious neighbours peeking through their front doors.
One of the vehicles, a marked police cruiser, was surrounded by shattered glass. The other, an unmarked SUV with its lights still on and the driver's side door left open, had several bullet holes through its front windshield.
St. Louis said he saw something shortly after that will always haunt him.
"I walked over and I saw two feet, facing the street, toes up,'' said St. Louis, 51. "I realized, 'Oh my God. There's somebody down.' As I got close, I realized it was an officer and this is not a good situation.''
St. Louis said he doesn't know what to make of the tragedy unfolding in the city of about 69,000.
"Our quiet little city, what is going on here?'' he said. "How is this happening to us? It always happens to somebody else.''
Danny Leblanc, 42, said he saw the shooter in the distance Wednesday evening, wearing a camouflage outfit and standing in the middle of the street with a gun pointed at police cars.
The construction worker said he believed it was an RCMP officer until he heard a burst of automatic gunfire coming from the man's gun.
"That guy was standing on the road afterwards and he was looking towards us,'' he said.
He said he quickly retreated into his home and remained there with his family and young children. At one point a neighbour posted on social media that their kitchen window was shattered by gunfire.
Leblanc said few people on his normally quiet street were sleeping as they awaited word at midnight on whether arrests had been made.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered his condolences to the families, colleagues and friends of those affected by the tragedy.
"We also offer our prayers for the speedy recovery of those injured,'' he said in a statement.
"This violent incident is a stark reminder that our men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line in Canada every day to protect our citizens and communities.
"The sacrifice of these brave officers will be honoured and remembered.''
George LeBlanc told a news conference it was his worst day as the city's mayor.
"I want to offer my most sincere condolence to the families of the police officers who have been killed in the line of duty and those who are injured. It is a terrible tragedy,'' he said.
"We as a city must pull together as a family to support those who have suffered losses.''