National News

Moncton takes back its streets, thanks RCMP

By Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

MONCTON, N.B. - Clutching his loaded hunting rifle, Justin Savoie huddled with his wife and two small children in their basement, unsure of what to expect as a gunman prowled their Moncton neighbourhood.

Savoie scrambled into the impromptu bunker after hearing the pops of multiple gunshots and the shouts of an RCMP officer urging him to run home as fast as he could.

"I didn't sleep at all," Savoie said Saturday of how he spent the next 30 hours under lockdown as the RCMP hunted for a suspect who shot five of their colleagues, killing three.

"It made me more comfortable to know that I had that hunting rifle in the house. That was my security system."

One of the officers killed Wednesday was the man who had warned Savoie about the danger.

RCMP officers arrested a suspect on Friday not far from Savoie's house. Justin Bourque, 24, is facing three charges of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the shootings, which besieged a large section of Moncton.

He appeared in court on Friday to face the allegations and his case was adjourned until next month.

On Saturday, people in the area shared stories about their traumatic experiences and expressed their gratitude to the RCMP for keeping them safe.

Savoie, a banker, said he was so impressed by their work that he signed up to take an RCMP entrance exam at the end of the month.

"This kind of intrigued me a little bit, and some other people actually, to join the RCMP," he said.

A parade and a regimental funeral is be held Tuesday afternoon for the three officers killed in the shootings: Const. Dave Ross, Const. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, and Const. Douglas James Larche.

The force said in a statement that assistant commissioner Francois Bidal will oversee preparations for the funeral, which will follow the parade at the Moncton Coliseum.

Signs of widespread appreciation for the RCMP were visible Saturday in Moncton, where people were invited to sign books of condolences for the fallen officers at city hall.

But the gratitude was particularly prominent in the city's northwestern end where the shootings took place.

Messages of thanks were posted on businesses along the bustling Mountain Road, scrawled on colourful homemade banners outside residences and a few were even drawn in chalk on driveways.

People who live in the area also recognized the Mounties by hopping on their bicycles — en masse.

More than 200 locals, most of whom were children, raced up and down the streets in a bike rally that passed some of the spots where the officers were shot.

Many of the bikes had colourful, handmade signs hanging from the handlebars that featured messages like, "Thank you RCMP" and "Thanks to our officers." The children also planted red and white flowers in a garden as teary-eyed parents looked on.

"We wanted to sort of show people that this isn't a crime scene, it's our home," said Angela Gates, who helped organize the rally with her children.

"This is where we live, this is where our kids play and we just wanted to do something to say our streets are safe again."

At the end of the event, dozens of people lined up to shake the hands of two on-duty RCMP officers guarding one of the crime scenes. Some even gave them hugs.

Across the street, a curb was still stained with blood that hadn't been completely washed off.

Gates said she thanked the officers for their work during the lockdown.

"We felt very safe here," she said. "When we looked out our windows, there were police everywhere in our neighbourhood."

A woman who lives across the street from the scene of one shooting said she was impressed with how officers stood outside her home, guns drawn for hours.

She said she couldn't believe how dedicated they were, particularly after five of their colleagues had been shot.

"I can say that our officers were amazing — amazing," said Diana, who would only give her first name.

"They were scared out of their wits, too, just like the rest of us."

Diana, whose husband, Floyd, witnessed the shooting and saw the suspect, said the whole neighbourhood has been traumatized.

She said she was still trembling Saturday.

"It was scary as hell," she said.

Police continued their work in the area on Saturday.

A few dozen Mounties scoured a ballpark, a wooded area, and a field close to where officers arrested Bourque.

In the field, which runs behind the neighbourhood where Bourque was apprehended Friday, more than 20 officers walked nearly shoulder to shoulder, carefully sifting through the long grass in search of clues.

Police have said Bourque was not armed when he gave himself up to police on the lawn of a home close the field.

Longtime Mailhot Avenue resident Bob Leblanc said the town will overcome these events.

"I feel that the community is strong," he said.

"We'll get through this."

Leblanc said he saw a man carrying a rifle walk right past his house "nonchalantly" and slip between some hedges before the gunshots rang out.

The officer killed near Leblanc's house was the same one who warned Savoie to run away.

Savoie said he was the second-last person the Mountie shouted a directive at before being fatally shot.

The officer's final command, he said, told the shooter to get down.

Moments later, Savoie said he heard what he believes were the fatal blasts.

He's confident people in the community will eventually recover.

"You can only take things one day at a time and you can't assume that this is going to happen twice in a lifetime," Savoie said.

"Obviously, it's still something that's always going to be in the back of your mind."

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