The daylight slaying of four Canadians in Fredericton, including two police officers and a couple embarking on a new romance, was perpetrated by a lone shooter with a long-gun, authorities allege.
Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder Saturday morning, one day after a Fredericton neighbourhood was locked down as police sought a gunman at an apartment complex on Brookside Drive. Mr. Raymond is currently recovering from police-inflicted gunshot wounds in a local hospital.
At a Saturday afternoon press conference, police officials would only say that lethal shots were fired by a shooter who was perched in an apartment window and fired at the courtyard below. No details are being released about how he chose his targets. Police are not speaking to the model of the weapon used, or whether it was lawfully acquired.
The personal relationships are murky, too.
“Is there a link between the victims and the shooter … that link has not been established yet,” said City of Fredericton deputy police chief Martin Gaudet. “That’s something we’re looking to establish and we haven’t established yet.”
Mr. Raymond moved into the modest, low-rise apartment building four months ago, after applying for a unit by himself, said Judith Aguilar, an office manager for Sunfield Apartment Rentals, the complex’s owners.
Fredericton Police Chief Leanne Fitch said she didn’t believe the shooting was launched with any specific goal of targeting police.
“At this point in time, we have nothing to indicate police were targeted," she said. “We responded to shots fired. Two citizens were already fatally wounded upon arrival of police.”
Mr. Raymond was apprehended later at the scene after a larger contingent of police, including tactical teams backed by an armoured vehicle, arrived. He is scheduled to make a court appearance on Aug. 27.
On Saturday morning, authorities identified two victims as local 42-year-old musician Donald “Donnie” Robichaud and Bobbie Lee Wright, age 32.
The couple was discovered fatally shot shortly after 7 a.m. Friday in the courtyard outside the apartment complex. Calls of gunshots were reported, and the two city police constables who initially responded were also shot dead. They have been identified as Lawrence Robert “Robb” Costello, 45, and Sara Mae Helen Burns, 43.
On the morning of the Aug. 10 shooting, the couple was packing up to go on a vacation. “They were going to go zip-lining after work,” Melissa Robichaud, the man’s ex-wife, told reporters.
Sean Callahan, a cousin of Mr. Robichaud’s, described him as a loving father of three grown-up children.
Ms. Wright’s family remembered her as a kind spirit who was “selfless and compassionate.” The 32-year-old Fredericton native was a homecare worker for the elderly. “It was very fitting for her, because she liked to care for other people,” her sister-in-law Emily Wright said in an interview.
Bobbie-Lee’s mother, Brenda Wright, remembered her daughter as polite and quiet when growing up, and always a “peacemaker” between her two siblings. She loved her niece and nephews, whom she treated like her own children.
Her best-friend, Mary Archibald, said Bobbie-Lee was “hilarious.”
In her spare time, Ms. Wright enjoyed digging into her family history and ancestry, and loved to share her findings with her family.
Family and friends said they are not aware of any connection between Ms. Wright and Mr. Raymond.
No bystanders in the apartment complex were hurt, police say.
Ms. Aguilar said Mr. Raymond is an avid cyclist who often came into pay his rent in cash while wearing a bike helmet.
“He came in every month to pay rent. He was always polite and pleasant," she said, later adding that Mr. Raymond had two prize possessions, an expensive bicycle and a high-end gaming computer.
Both Mr. Robichaud and Mr. Raymond were residents of the apartment complex, but lived in different buildings, she said.
Brendan Doyle, who until recently ran a local café, wrote in a Twitter message that Mr. Raymond was a “talkative customer” mostly interested in biking and playing first-person-shooter video games. He called Mr. Raymond “a lonely person” and said he was a regular customer from 2010 until 2017, when he was banned from the premises.
The deaths of the two constables have shaken the City of Fredericton’s small police force, which has a total of 127 officers and staff working for it. The RCMP’s major crimes unit has been called in to pursue the homicide investigation. Other officers from nearby forces will be helping fill in voids left by grieving officers in coming weeks.
Later on Saturday, Fredericton Police circulated statements from the families of the slain officers. Constable Burns “absolutely loved her job,” one of the statements said. As for Constable Costello, he “was often heard to say he was a ‘CFL’ − constable for life. He loved the people, he loved the variety of calls, but mostly he loved being able to de-escalate an escalating situation.” That statement from his family added that “he responded eagerly and willingly to that last call.”
A regimental funeral for the police officers is slated for next Saturday.
The shootings occur as Canadian politicians grapple with how to handle the implications of several recent mass shootings and mass murders.
During last month’s double homicide on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue, a gunman killed a 10-year-old girl and an 18-year-old woman as he indiscriminately opened fire with a handgun. Faisal Hussain injured 13 other people and died after a shootout with police.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the City of Fredericton police headquarters Sunday to talk to police officials and family members of the slain officers on Sunday. He arrived during a pre-scheduled visit to the city’s Pride parade.
Speaking to reporters in front of bouquets of flowers for the fallen officers, the Prime Minister mentioned that the Liberals have gun-control legislation currently before Parliament.
Bill C-71 would aim to tighten up checks for people looking to buy guns, including by digging deeper into the backgrounds of people suffering from mental-health issues.
“We were pleased to put forward gun legislation that is going to make our communities safer,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters at the scene. “I think there are natural conversations that need to be had around now − do we need to take further steps? Do we need to go a little further?
With reports from The Canadian Press