Three Stetsons atop three caskets, each draped with the nation’s flag, served as a fresh reminder Monday to the people of Moncton of the devastating impact of last week’s shootings.
Moving slowly and shedding tears, thousands of people paid their respects to the three slain Mounties at a west-end event centre. The public visitation marked the beginning of two days of mourning in the New Brunswick city for the officers gunned down last Wednesday: Constables Fabrice Gévaudan, 45, Douglas Larche, 40, and David Ross, 32.
Private gatherings were held earlier Monday for close friends and family. On Tuesday, the Moncton Coliseum will play host to a regimental funeral for the officers, with both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor-General David Johnston scheduled to attend. The funeral will start at 1 p.m. local time and will be preceded by a parade of law-enforcement officials from across Canada, beginning at 11:45 a.m. along Millennium Boulevard.
Justin Bourque, 24, was arrested early Friday morning after a 30-hour manhunt in the wake of the shootings in northern Moncton. He’s been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
A procession of mourners snaked through the Wesleyan Celebration Centre from early Monday afternoon until late in the evening. Citizens and Mounties, garbed in their Red Serge on sentry duty, paid tribute to the three officers’ lives both in and out of the force.
Brown boots, polished like mirrors, sat next to a well-worn Habs cap by Constable Larche’s casket. France’s flag stood next to Constable Gévaudan’s; and, next to Constable Ross, a dog harness – a symbol of his work in the K-9 squad.
“He always wanted to be a dog man,” his retired former supervisor, Corporal Reg Smith, told The Globe and Mail at the visitation. “That was his priority from day one, when he first got here.”
Constable Ross had graduated from dog-handler training not long ago, and had recently found out he’d be staying in Moncton in his new role, according to family friends.
“He was just a great guy,” Cpl. Smith said. “A quality man … He would do anything for the guys and gals on the shift.”
In a statement released Monday, Constable Ross’s father, Yvon, and wife, Rachael, called him “a man of integrity who put his all into everything he did.”
Each officer had a photo on display, too. Constable Ross, with one of his dogs; Constable Larche, riding his bike; and Constable Gévaudan in diving gear.
Teaching scuba diving was one of his passions, said Dot Bauer, a seamstress who works regularly with the RCMP. She loved when Constable Gévaudan would come in.
“He was a sweetheart,” she said. “You could just hug him. I nearly fell over when I found out it was him. I couldn’t believe it was Fab.”
The visitation showed just how much the three officers had touched the lives of the Moncton region.
Nathalie Scott teaches dance to Constable Larche’s daughters. “It hit hard when I heard,” she said. “Knowing that they lost their dad is very saddening.”
Others showed up to pay respects without having ever met the officers. “It’s heart-wrenching,” said Lelianne LeBlanc, on the verge of tears. “I can’t believe that it’s real,” she said. “This week, things start over now, and there’s so many people in pain. I can’t understand it.”
Thousands of law-enforcement officers from across the country are expected to arrive in the Moncton area for the funeral and parade. The city launched a billeting program late Sunday afternoon to give officers a place to stay, and more than 850 people responded, offering rooms and in some cases entire homes for the cause, a city spokesperson said.
Former Expos and Phillies pitcher Rhéal Cormier, who was born near Moncton, was in the province to be inducted into the New Brunswick Sports Hall of Fame. He, too, visited the officers.
“It’s crazy, especially in a small community,” he said. “In the U.S., it seems we have this every day,” he said after visiting the memorial. “You wouldn’t think it would happen here. It puts stuff into perspective.”
Half a dozen firemen arrived in a fire truck in the mid-afternoon. “This is a tough situation,” said Lieutenant John Cormier. Fire officials, he said, know the danger that can come in the line of duty. “The best thing we can do is honour these individuals.”
Law-enforcement officials who came from far away to respond to the initial shooting news paid their respects, too. Constable Stephanie Badeau rushed to Moncton Wednesday night to reinforce the local detachment when news of the shooting broke. “In tragedies like this, we all feel like we want to help,” she said.
Harper, Trudeau, Mulcair, to attend funeral
Prime Minister Stephen Harper will lead a delegation of federal leaders to Moncton for the funeral of RCMP officers slain last week.
Mr. Harper’s office made the announcement Monday, adding that New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau were invited to join him.
Both accepted. Governor-General David Johnston and his wife, Sharon Johnston, also will attend.
The funeral for RCMP officers Dave Ross, Fabrice Gevaudan and Douglas Larche – who were killed in the line of duty on June 4 – is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the Moncton Coliseum and is expected to draw mourners from across the country.
“The police community is tight-knit and when something like this happens, it stirs strong emotions in each and every one of us. The day will be filled with many tears,” MP David Wilks, a retired Mountie, said of the funeral.
“… We will always be with them. Canadians will hold them in their thoughts and prayers in the days, weeks and months to come. God bless each and every one of them.”
Mr. Harper’s office announced that RCMP officers from the Ottawa area will also join the trip. The bipartisan invitations for the NDP and Liberal leaders are common practice – Mr. Harper extended similar invitations for Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral.
The leaders will attend as Parliament’s spring sitting winds down, with a handful of bills expected to be pushed through in the coming days.
Amid the frenzied pace, however, MPs paused to honour the memory of the officers.
“Battling against danger and imminent odds, and of course, pure evil, we saw the old adage that the RCMP always get their man held true again,” New Brunswick Tory MP Robert Goguen said.
“Thanks to the great actions of the RCMP, we remain Moncton strong.”
With a report from Josh Wingrove