In the months before the Moncton rampage, the suspect, Justin Bourque, was seen acting oddly as he roamed the wooded trails near the places where the slain police officers were ambushed.
Physiotherapist Charles Doucet, who lives 75 metres south of one of the crime scenes, on a dead-end abutting woodland, recalled crossing paths with Mr. Bourque during a storm last winter.
Mr. Doucet was shovelling in front of his house when Mr. Bourque came by, on snowshoes, carrying a shovel and wearing camouflage clothes.
“He went into the woods behind our place. And just before getting in, he stared at me, with a very cold glare,” Mr. Doucet said. “It was bizarre.”
Mr. Bourque, 24, was arrested early Friday morning in connection to the shooting deaths of three RCMP officers Wednesday night.
A few months later, in the spring, Mr. Doucet saw him again on a trail, carrying an axe, a shovel and other tools.
“The thought that crossed my mind was that this was a man who was too old to be playing fort in the woods.”
He said his wife also crossed paths with Mr. Bourque a few times on the trails and found a makeshift shelter.
Mr. Bourque’s Facebook page has a photo of him with a friend in a clearing, holding shotguns, the snowy ground littered with shell casings.
The friend works at Worlds End Warehouse, a “preparedness” store near Moncton that sells guns and survival gear. He appears in numerous photos on the store's Facebook feed as well.
The store announced on Facebook that an employee named Nate Plewes offered his resignation Friday, "as the media attention surrounding the case has currently made his position untenable."
A representative from the store said it did not sell Mr. Bourque his guns.
A week and a half before the shootings, Mr. Bourque had taken a job at Rolly's Wholesale Ltd., a warehouse in the city's northeast. He worked there "until the incident," a manager said, declining to provide further comment.
The woods where the Doucets saw Mr. Bourque are located about three kilometres from the trailer park where he lived.
On Wednesday, when he emerged in camouflage gear, holding a rifle and a pump-action shotgun, Mr. Bourque was heading south towards the wooded area, marching on Mailhot Avenue, where the shootings took place.
Meanwhile, neighbours of the Bourques on Friday expressed sadness at learning it was the son of “good Catholic” parents who had sent Moncton into mourning.
A young man describing himself as a friend of the Bourques stood watch outside what he confirmed to be the family’s home, a small, beige house on a quiet residential street with a small garden out front and a trampoline out back, not far from downtown Moncton.
No one answered the door, but neighbours milling about in the rain said their thoughts were with the family and the victims.
The man outside the home, who was visibly shaken and wouldn’t identify himself other than to say he knows the Bourques, said little other than the suspect had several siblings.
A woman, who described herself as a landlord for some other nearby buildings, said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss the tenants, saying she had nothing to offer about the religious family who lives there and that “the community has suffered enough.”
A neighbour, John Doubt, said he noticed an armoured police car at a nearby corner and a Brinks truck outside the home around 1 a.m. last night. Though he couldn’t confirm it was the Bourque home, he described his neighbour as a “good Catholic family.”
“They’re great neighbours,” said Mr. Doubt, adding he moved there about a year ago and understands the family has lived there for several years. “I see them go to church every Sunday ... They seemed a happy family.”
With a file from Josh O'Kane in Moncton
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