Shortly after gunfire erupted in Moncton, a team of Fredericton Police Service tactical officers hit the road, heavily armed and bound for a city under siege.
According to Fredericton police radio traffic from that June 4 evening, the emergency response team scrambled into action at about 8:15 p.m. local time – about one hour after the first 911 calls reported an armed gunman walking through a trailer park and into the woods.
It has been two weeks since the shootings that killed three Mounties and injured two more, and today a clearer picture is emerging of what happened and how law-enforcement agencies responded.
All three fallen men – constables Fabrice Gévaudan, Dave Ross and Douglas Larche – were killed within about a kilometre of each other, according to witnesses and police.
Five paramedic crews also headed to the scene that night and were “ready to go at a moment’s notice,” Ambulance New Brunswick spokeswoman Tracy Bell said. But the crews were held back at RCMP staging areas for their own safety and did not end up taking anyone to the hospital.
Along with the Fredericton team, tactical officers from across the province descended on this New Brunswick city to help the Codiac RCMP detachment respond to the shootings and track down suspect Justin Bourque.
Around 7 p.m., witnesses saw Mr. Bourque walking heavily armed into the woods at the bottom of the trailer park. A woman at the trailer park saw an officer arrive in a police cruiser and enter the woods on foot. She said the RCMP has since told her the officer was not among those hurt.
Only a short, muddy trail separates the Pioneer Avenue trailer park from the neighbourhood where gunfire erupted and a makeshift memorial has since sprouted. Residents say Constable Gévaudan was killed there, in the backyard of a home near the trail.
Just up the road, by a set of community mailboxes on Mailhot Avenue, Constable Ross was slain, witnesses said. At the other end of the street, Constable Larche was killed, a police officer confirmed.
Constables Ross and Larche both lived near where they died, and were said to be alone and driving dark SUVs when they responded. Constable Gévaudan lived in Dieppe.
Constable Darlene Goguen, who was driving a squad car, was shot a short distance west of where Constable Larche was killed. A police car and SUV arrived soon afterward, and neighbours heard someone yell, “Officer down!” Two officers helped the wounded woman hobble into the SUV.
Constable Eric Dubois was also injured in the June 4 shootings, although the circumstances are unclear.
By the time the Fredericton tactical officers arrived in Moncton, a 1 1/2-hour drive away, part of the city was locked down. The New Brunswick RCMP response team, comprised of officers from across the province, also worked to track down the heavily armed shooter.
During the roughly 30 hours of the lockdown, tactical units responded to an exhausting number of false alarms.
At 7:41 a.m. on June 5, a report came over the police radio of a “man in dark clothing with a long item swinging on his shoulder” ringing the doorbell at the receiving entrance of the Wal-Mart store, where Mr. Bourque once worked.
At the same time, officers surrounded a fire station that had been abandoned overnight because of its proximity to the shootings. When firefighters arrived in the morning, they found the back door open and called police.
Over the course of the manhunt, commanders on the radio asked officers heading to the scenes of reported Bourque sightings if they were carrying a type of high-powered gun called a carbine.
Then, just after midnight, police radio transmissions hinted a takedown was imminent. “Clear the air, clear the air,” radioed an officer, according to an audio archive of transmissions on the website LiveATC.net. “Is there someone walking in the woods from our team in relation to the [emergency response team] van at Mountain Road and [Highway] 15?”
This was where tactical officers surrounded and arrested Mr. Bourque.
“We have a visual, we have a visual, only of a light, someone walking in the woods with a light, copy?” radioed another officer.
At 12:16 a.m., someone called for officers at the intersection of Wheeler Boulevard and Mountain Road to shut off their lights to assist with the arrest in the woods just steps away.
And at 12:22, the call they had all been waiting for: “I think ERT has our fella in custody.”
Several incredulous officers radioed to confirm the news.
By 12:30, a commander took to the air with an answer. “Attention all members, attention all members, clear the air,” he announced. “This is to notify all members that we have one in custody. We want you to keep your vigilance. We want you to keep the perimeter. Wait for direction.”
Constable Travis Jones, of the Saint John Police Force, transported Mr. Bourque from the arrest scene, describing the apprehension as a collective effort successfully led by his “brothers and sisters” in the RCMP.
“[The arrest] was a big sigh of relief, there’s no question,” Constable Jones told the Globe and Mail on Tuesday. “The people of Moncton and the Greater Moncton Area – and their officers – were safe, finally.”
With a report from Josh O’Kane in Moncton
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