The couple’s view across the street was clear: A camouflaged gunman, standing on the sidewalk under a tree shedding pink flowers, shot the RCMP officer “pretty well point blank.”
The man and his wife were horrified, but instead of staying locked in their home, they bolted toward the victim. The man called 911.
When they found Constable Douglas Larche on the ground, they feared the worst, and were right. The 40-year-old husband and father would be among the three RCMP officers shot dead that Wednesday evening. Two officers were injured.
Much has been revealed by those who witnessed the shootings, but little has emerged about the people who put themselves in harm’s way to try to help an officer who was shot. The man who found Constable Larche on the quiet residential street asked to remain anonymous, not feeling as though he did anything notable, not wanting to take anything away from the real heroes: the fallen Mounties.
He was at the murder scene Saturday afternoon, out for a walk and speaking with neighbours, watching as people laid flowers at the foot of a stop sign in remembrance.
Asked whether he hesitated before running toward danger, he said “no,” though he couldn’t explain why. He said he would absolutely do the same thing over again.
“Most definitely,” he said. “The next day, my wife and I talked about it, and it’s just who we are. We’d do it again.”
When he and his wife arrived at the officer’s side, they had no idea whether the gunman was still nearby.
The car door, which the officer had left ajar, was slammed shut by a gust of wind, causing what was left of the partly shattered glass to crash on the ground with such a sound that it rang through his ears like a gunshot. All the while, neighbours screamed out their doors and windows, pleading with the couple to go back inside.
The man said his wife ran to a neighbour’s home, but he stayed with the officer. He called out to a passing driver for a blanket – something, anything – they could use to cover the man’s body on the street. A sleeping bag would do.
That’s when another officer approached the scene with his gun drawn. “The [shooter] had just left this area and he wasn’t sure where the shooter was,” the man said.
But soon the officer and the man were working together to bring Constable Larche off the street and up the driveway, parting ways only after the officer told the man to retreat indoors.
When the man saw photos of the three slain officers, he knew the Mountie he’d tried to help was Constable Larche.
What remains of that scene now is tiny pieces of shattered blueish glass interspersed with pink petals from that overhanging tree, a mosaic of life and death. Lampposts nearby, as elsewhere in the city, are tied with three white ribbons commemorating each life lost.
Among the bouquets of lilacs and lilies and wildflowers at the stop sign are notes that say, “We will remember” and “We are so sorry for your loss. Your service and sacrifice will be remembered.”
Constable Larche, a New Brunswick native of Saint John, once saved the life of a baby in the city, for which he received a Commander’s Commendation in 2008.
Janice Steeves and her husband, Brent, added daisies to the roadside memorial and thought of the man who lost his life, though she hadn’t yet learned his name.
“Some child has lost his father. A wife has lost her husband. A mother has lost her son,” she said, motioning for her husband to put his arm around her. “With me, that’s where it hurts: I can’t imagine losing one of mine. It’s an emptiness, a void, that can’t be filled.”
Having heard gunshots ring out Wednesday – three quick and loud, two slightly quieter ones to follow – she stayed inside until Friday morning, just hours after the shooter was apprehended in a residential backyard following a 30-hour manhunt that sent a swath of the city into lockdown.
Ms. Steeves said she’d like to attend Tuesday afternoon’s RCMP memorial service at the Moncton Coliseum. She’s also planning to be in court July 3, when Justin Bourque makes his second court appearance after being charged Friday with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
“I would like, in a sense, to face my fear,” she said. “This is a man who put fear in me and made me a prisoner in my house. He made me afraid, and I want to see him afraid. He has to pay for what he did. He has to answer to the families he robbed of their fathers, brothers, husbands, sons.”