Marlene Snowman had just gotten home from work and was changing out of her RCMP uniform when she received a call saying a shooting was under way in Moncton and officers had been hurt.
Superintendent Snowman, with the maritime’s Codiac detachment, immediately moved specialized teams into action and rushed to RCMP headquarters. It wasn’t long before she was at a local hospital, facing the daunting task of telling three families their loved one had just been gunned down.
By the early-morning hours of June 6, she got another call at home. “We got him,” the caller said of a gunman who’d eluded police for 30 hours.
She’d had an “inkling” just before that the suspect would soon be caught. “It was one of those things where your intuition says, ‘You know what, this is it; it’s going to happen tonight,’” she said in a sit-down interview at her Main Street office.
Supt. Snowman, a 27-year veteran of the force with a strong presence and a soothing voice, presided over the response to one of the worst mass shootings in RCMP history. She’s been the public face of the detachment, in charge of some 141 officers but also a focal point for a city and a nation searching for answers.
Now, the lobby downstairs smells like a florist shop, thanks to a thick trail of bouquets leading to photos of the fallen: Constables Dave Ross, Douglas Larche and Fabrice Gevaudan.
“Codiac will never be the same,” Supt. Snowman said. “There will be a new normal, and we’ll adjust to that.”
Even before the June 4 shootings, Supt. Snowman was bound for a change. Just one month earlier, around her three-year anniversary with Codiac, the 49-year-old was promoted to head of criminal operations in Nova Scotia. The posting was slated to take her to Dartmouth in June, but those plans have been postponed as her officers, on leave in the wake of the shootings, grapple with their loss.
“I think what they need right now is consistency and stability,” Supt. Snowman said in her modest workspace, next door to what used to be Constable Larche’s office. “I think it’ll be good for the employees, and I think it’ll be good for me.”
On a wooden bookshelf are white policing binders and a camouflage-clad teddy bear she received from an armed forces mediation instructor. She’s not particularly attached to any items here, save for the one she can’t bring to Dartmouth: a City of Moncton painting of a man with a furrowed brow and black-rimmed glasses.
“I don’t know who he is, but he’s been comforting,” she said looking up at him.
Relief officers from across the country are here to fill in for the province’s busiest detachment. Codiac officers fielded more than 40,000 calls for service last year, helping build an “esprit de corps” because members spend so much time in the field together, Supt. Snowman said.
“Telling a police officer that, for your best interest, you need to take some time off is like telling a baker you can’t bake any more – you can’t make any more cookies,” she said of the two-week relief period.
Supt. Snowman said local Mounties have dropped by headquarters in recent days, since this is “home,” but they’re also doing whatever they can to support the victims’ wives – finishing the landscaping their husbands had started, and in one family’s case building a sandbox. On Saturday, they will also help take down the sprawling sidewalk memorial outside headquarters.
“I think over the past week, people have been having to dig deep within themselves to reflect on what’s taken place, those difficult questions over the why and the hows,” she said.
Supt. Snowman knew the fallen Mounties well, all three “good men.” Constable Larche, an “excellent investigator.” Constable Gevaudan, always wearing a big smile. And Constable Ross, a dog handler she saw just hours before he died, a “sweetheart.”
“I can clearly see him in my mind’s eye, sitting in his office downstairs,” she said.
Supt. Snowman – in her uniform of blue pants and a collared white shirt, her brown hair tied back in a ponytail – was emotional talking about the impact the shootings have had on her force and their families. When she wasn’t sitting on her hands, she was picking at her fingernails. Her eyes welled at times.
Justin Bourque, 24, faces three charges of first-degree murder and two charges of attempted murder. The investigation is ongoing, so Supt. Snowman can’t detail the force’s response, but she did say that after receiving the call at her home on June 4, she mobilized resources, including emergency response teams and air services. As soon as the force knew which officers had been shot, their families were notified, she said.
“At that point, we weren’t certain of what state the members were in,” Supt. Snowman said. “There was a period of time before I was able to tell them [of their loss], because it was a period of time before we actually knew.”
Supt. Snowman recognizes she can’t ask her officers to take time to grieve without doing the same, so she too has carved out some space for herself. What makes it harder still is knowing she’ll at some point have to leave Codiac.
“This is my home,” she said. “These people are like family to me.”
Twenty-five of Supt. Snowman’s years of service have been in New Brunswick, the other two as former governor-general Michaëlle Jean ’s security officer. Her move to Nova Scotia will mark a new chapter in a career she dreamed of as a little girl, realizing in Grade 2 she wanted to be a cop.
She stressed several times how thankful she is to her officers and her community, saying she’s confident Codiac will not only rebuild but emerge stronger.
Asked what parting words she’ll offer her members, Supt. Snowman said: “My message to them will be that I want them to look after themselves individually and collectively, because there will always be tough days ahead.”