‘The world has changed’: Thousands mourn at funeral for B.C. Mountie Rick O’Brien, 51
October 4, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Oct. 4, 2023, Langley, B.C. – The Mountie killed in Coquitlam, B.C., less than two weeks ago has been remembered as a funny and loyal friend, a loving father and an officer who enjoyed connecting with young people.
Thousands filled the event centre in Langley, B.C., Wednesday for the regimental funeral of Const. Rick O’Brien, the 10th police officer to be killed in Canada since September of last year.
Those gathered included hundreds of RCMP officers dressed in red serge, their senior officers, representatives from multiple police services, firefighters, military and politicians, including B.C. Premier David Eby.
Friend and co-worker Cpl. Pete Westra said O’Brien’s death was senseless and devastating.
“It will be felt by his family, friends, the entire Ridge Meadows detachment, the RCMP and the countless lives that he touched,” he said.
“The world has changed with this loss. We can’t say enough, but we want to say, ‘Well done, Rick. We love you.’”
The father of six was 51 when he was killed Sept. 22 while he and other officers were executing a search warrant at a home in Coquitlam, B.C.
Westra said O’Brien was proud of his blended family, often referring to them as “The Brady Bunch.”
O’Brien came to the Mounties late in life, joining in 2016 after a career of working with at-risk children, and spending his entire career in the Ridge Meadows detachment.
Westra said O’Brien wanted to become an officer to show kids that police could be trusted and were there to help.
Another co-worker, Const. Ben Stephens told those gathered that O’Brien spent as much time as possible volunteering at schools, youth centres, local trade shows and sporting events.
“Rick knew that the presence of a smile in a uniform had the power to light up the eyes of a child or a person intimidated by the big man with a gun,” he said.
“He always had stickers, temporary tattoos, pens, whatever he could find, to give to people. Rick knew that he could make a difference in people’s lives, and he truly made sure that he did.”
Early in his career, O’Brien was decorated for bravery after helping to rescue victims from a home invasion.
His friend, Const. Dan Leclaire said O’Brien understood that he didn’t require a uniform to take on the responsibility of serving his community.
“He served his community with excellence because he cared for people. Rick’s contribution and sacrifice will be felt far and wide and forever be remembered,” Leclaire said.
O’Brien’s sister, Cindy Niezen, said some of her favourite memories will be of her brother’s “great healing hugs” that he inherited from their mother, who died earlier this year.
“I know it’s gonna shock a lot of you, but he was sarcastic. Believe it or not, the amount of teasing, joking and name calling that you endured – I mean received – from Rick was an indication of how much he truly cared for you,” she said.
Prior to the funeral, hundreds of officers and others in uniform marched to the event centre in a procession behind the hearse carrying O’Brien’s coffin.
The RCMP Pipe Band led the procession and a riderless horse, symbolizing a fallen member, followed the hearse.
Langley resident Ingrid Davies said that as the mother of a Mountie she decided to attend to watch the procession in tribute to the fallen officer.
“It hits very close to home when something like this happens, but we just try to stay positive and we hope his family can find some peace,” she said.
In a letter read during the funeral on behalf of O’Brien’s widow Nicole Longacre O’Brien, friend Stephanie Porter said the couple had been planning to go on a holiday on the day that was now his funeral.
“Thank you for showing strength, vulnerability and demonstrating to our kids that no matter how old you are, it is never too late to go after your dreams,” she read.
“I will remember every kiss. I will remember every touch and, until we meet again, I will love you, and I will miss you, and I will honour you every day.”
A fundraiser organized by the National Police Federation Benevolent Foundation has raised more than $150,000 for O’Brien’s family.
A 25-year-old man has been charged with first-degree murder in the officer’s death.
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