“There’s no question that we’re going to continue this search in order to apprehend him at all costs,” said Superintendent Marlene Snowman, commanding officer of the Greater Moncton RCMP. “And hopefully with no other injuries or deaths.”
The shootings began after a woman called 911 to report that a man carrying guns was walking along a road on Wednesday evening, Supt. Snowman said. The officers who were shot at included those who were first on the scene as well as their colleagues who were summoned to provide back up, she said.
Vanessa Bernatchez was enjoying a few drinks in her family’s backyard when a neighbour yelled at them to get inside.
“There’s a man outside,” she recalls the neighbour saying. “He’s shooting cops.”
Moments later they heard gunshots and ran inside, locking the doors behind them. From inside the house they peeked out the front windows and noticed other neighbours milling around.
“We yelled at them ‘get in the house, get in the house,’” she said.
She decided she had to alert friends in the area about the man with the guns, so she started recording a short video that she intended to send out through social media as a warning to stay away. She had no idea it would eventually get replayed by news outlets around the world.
That’s when an unmarked police car rolled up and a plainclothes police officer stepped out. He was wearing a flak vest. Ms. Bernatchez said he kept turning around because he didn’t know the direction of the shooter. That’s when family members noticed a shadow growing larger between two houses next door.
“We knew it was the shooter right away,” she said. “We banged on the windows to let the officer know. We yelled ‘turn around.’ Then there was a shot. The officer went down. He got shot in the neck.”
Despite his mortal wound, the officer managed to squeeze off two shots from his handgun as he fell to the ground, according to Ms. Bernatchez.
“He was still trying to get that shooter, but as soon as he hit the ground, he stopped moving.”
For Ms. Bernatchez, the most chilling part was still to come. They saw the shooter clearly. He was wearing a hat and had dark smudges beneath his eyes. The family watched through the front window as the shooter calmly raised his rifle and walked away slowly.
“He just walked away as if it was no big deal,” she said. “That’s what made me sick to my stomach.”
Ms. Bernatchez ran to the phone and called 911. She gave her location and the officer’s condition. The operator suggested the officer could be playing dead.
“I said ‘No, there’s too much blood. He’s not moving.'”
Within 10 minutes, her street was flooded with police.
“We told them he went toward the woods and the highway. We’ve been in the house ever since. I haven’t slept.”
Danny Leblanc, 42, said he saw the shooter in the distance Wednesday evening, wearing a camouflage outfit and standing in the middle of the street with a gun pointed at police cars.
The construction worker said he believed it was an RCMP officer until he heard a burst of automatic gunfire coming from the man’s gun.
“That guy was standing on the road afterward and he was looking toward us,” he said.
He said he quickly retreated into his home with his family, adding a neighbour posted on social media that a kitchen window was shattered by gunfire.
Mr. Leblanc said few people on his normally quiet street were sleeping as they awaited word at midnight on whether arrests had been made.
“It’s just crazy. We’re chatting with our friends on Facebook and we’re not going to bed until this guy is caught. I’m sure nobody in Moncton is sleeping because he seems to be all over the place,” he said. The deaths of the three officers has shocked the city, he said.
“It’s devastating. I don’t know if he was on a hunt for them, or what,” said Leblanc.