One police officer was killed, and two others were injured in what Ontario Provincial Police say was an “ambush” as they responded to a call in a small community east of Ottawa early Thursday morning.
Sergeant Eric Mueller, 42, from the Russell County detachment, has been identified as the officer killed. The names of the two injured officers haven’t been released.
OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique said on Thursday that one of the injured officers, who is 43 years old with 19 years of OPP service, remains in hospital in stable, but critical condition. A 35-year-old officer with 10 years of service has been released from hospital and is recovering at home.
The three officers responded within minutes of each other to a home on Laval Street in Bourget, a village within the city of Clarence-Rockland. They arrived shortly after 2 a.m., after a nearby resident reported hearing gunshots, Commissioner Carrique said. Bourget is about 50 kilometres east of Ottawa.
A 39-year-old male suspect was arrested without incident by other officers who arrived to assist their colleagues after the shooting. Alain Bellefeuille has been charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder and remains in custody. Few details have been released about the accused, but Commissioner Carrique said he isn’t someone who the OPP have been “dealing with repeatedly for years.” A long gun was found at the scene.
Sgt. Mueller is the 10th police officer to have been killed in Canada since last September, and the sixth in Ontario.
OPP Constable Greg Pierzchala, 28, was fatally shot in December while responding to a call about a vehicle in a ditch near the small, southwestern community of Hagersville. Two people have been charged with first-degree murder in that case, including Randall McKenzie, who was out on bail at the time and subject to a lifetime firearms ban.
The recent violence has sparked calls from police groups to improve public safety and better protect officers. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police met with Canada’s premiers in April to discuss how to address challenges such as gun and gang violence and bail reform.
Commissioner Carrique told reporters that Sgt. Mueller was a 21-year veteran of the service who started out as a special constable in Ottawa. He later served as a provincial constable and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2018. He will be remembered as a dedicated, exemplary officer, Commissioner Carrique said.
“He’s described by his colleagues as a coach, a mentor, someone that everybody looked up to, the glue that held his shift together and the best leader that many people ever had the privilege of working for,” he said. “Our hearts are broken.”
In a statement, the OPP Association said Sgt. Mueller had a wife and two young children.
Commissioner Carrique described the shootings as an ambush on the three officers, who were all shot within minutes of arriving on the scene.
No one else was believed to be inside the home at the time of the shooting and there were no other injuries, Commissioner Carrique said, adding that the home is believed to be the residence of the male suspect. The investigation continues.
The officers were transported to the Ottawa Hospital Civic Campus, where Sgt. Mueller died from his injuries.
Mario Zanth, the mayor of Clarence-Rockland, said the shooting was a shock for the community. Clarence-Rockland has a population of 26,505 people, according to the 2021 census, with around 1,100 people living in Bourget.
The officers involved “are local, they work here, they live here in the area, and they have a lot of friends and family in the area, so this is obviously devastating,” Mr. Zanth said.
Residents of the village, where conversations slip between French and English, said they were shaken.
“Something like this you don’t think could happen so close to you, and it really makes you re-evaluate things,” said Madison Bach, who since January has lived in a house down the street with her husband and their six-month-old daughter.
Jaclyn Young, another local, said the shooting had placed her family on edge.
“It’s nerve-racking to know that this happened,” she said. “An officer lost his life in our town due to protecting our community.”
With a report from The Canadian Press