The four young brothers crouched over a pothole puddle in this Moncton trailer park, stirring the muddy water with long dandelion stems.
The boys, so similar in age and appearance they could pass as quadruplets, were playing, one said with a smile.
To an outsider, the children seemed fine, but their father, Kerry Fitzpatrick, knew better. They were scared and confused ever since they learned their neighbour, who sometimes gave their father cash for food, was said to have done a very bad thing: Justin Bourque is accused of killing three RCMP officers and injuring two.
The aftershock of the murders and ensuing 30-hour manhunt has been such that Mr. Fitzpatrick said life on Pioneer’s dirt avenue is no longer tenable. The single father plans on moving his boys, possibly out West, to distance them from the tragedy.
“They thought [Mr. Bourque] was a nice guy,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said in his kitchen this weekend. “Now they know what they’ve heard on TV … They’re scared. They have nightmares. The first night, before he was apprehended by police, they barely slept.”
The impact of the Moncton shootings stretches far and deep into this small city, where families are mourning the loss of loved ones and the injured are healing wounds. And as evidenced in the four Fitzpatrick boys, the “incident,” as some call it here, has touched the lives of those who haven’t suffered a direct, or even indirect, loss.
Residents have spoken of a lingering sense of fear, of flashbacks at the whirring of a siren or any unexpected sound, for that matter. And in the trailer park, where Mr. Bourque was seen walking armed and blank-faced into the nearby woods, the consequences of the shooting are becoming evident.
“Unfortunately, I feel like I have to move, and I probably will move,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “They know [Mr. Bourque’s trailer], they know where he lived. It’s always going to be there for them.”
His conversations with the children, as they pass the accused’s white and brown mobile home, go something like this: The boys, aged 10, 9, 8 and 7, point out that it’s where Justin lives, that he’s in jail, that he’s said to have done a “bad thing.” Their dad says “yes” three times.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, who’s unemployed after being laid off from the warehouse where Mr. Bourque most recently worked, said it’s difficult to reconcile the Justin he knew with the man police accuse of killing three Mounties.
“If we needed money for school lunches or anything, he would offer whatever he could – he’s offered $20 before,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t know what to say about this whole thing, because I’ve never seen that side of him. It’s sad, definitely.”
The 38-year-old father said he’s taking it day-by-day with his boys, who were excited to show off the toy guns and handcuffs they retrieved from the living room, which doubles as their father’s bedroom.
On Saturday, Mr. Fitzpatrick took them to the Dollar Store, just to get them out and about and take their mind off the frightening days Moncton had endured. But some day he wants to move out of the province – maybe to Calgary or Kelowna – and possibly start his own business using his welding and carpentry skills.
“I am going to get out of here,” he said emphatically. “It’s just a matter of time.”