Constable Eric Dubois spent Sunday morning separating bouquets – some to be donated, others to be composted – as Codiac Mounties dismantled the public memorial to three slain colleagues at their Moncton headquarters.
Had things gone differently, those bouquets might have been laid in tribute to Constable Dubois, too. He was one of two officers injured in the June 4 shootings that killed Constables Fabrice Gévaudan, Dave Ross and Douglas Larche, paralyzing the Moncton region in the process.
He would not reveal the extent of his injuries, but he showed little physical restraint in helping his colleagues Sunday. "I'm doing fine," he told The Globe and Mail. "My wounds are doing better," he said, gesturing to his left arm, covered with a shirtsleeve.
Constable Dubois declined to comment any further because of the pending, massive investigation into the shootings, for which 24-year-old Justin Bourque has been charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
The Main Street memorial for the fallen officers is gone as life in Moncton slowly returns to normal, but the impact of the shootings and looming investigation will cast a long shadow over the city for years to come.
As the wives and children of the victims spent their first Father's Day without their husbands and fathers, friends and colleagues of the slain officers organized a three-kilometre race, with proceeds going to a trust fund for the families.
Close to 7,000 people showed up on Sunday to walk, run and cycle. Organizers expect to have raised $100,000 for the Larche, Ross and Gévaudan families.
It was a three-kilometre race – "one for each officer," said Constable Christy Elliott, who helped organize the event, and who trained Constable Ross when he arrived in Moncton six years ago. "These were three dads whose families all had plans to do something special with them on Father's Day," she said.
"Those plans changed, and we didn't want a sense of emptiness to be there. It was important to try as much as we could, not just as an RCMP family, but as a community, to fill that void for them, and make this a celebration, because they were all dads."
Constable Ross, an avid outdoorsman, would take his son Austin on daily walks to a nearby park to instill in him a love of nature. Earlier this month, Constable Larche spent his 12th wedding anniversary with wife, Nadine, at their three daughters' year-end dance recital. Constable Gévaudan treated his stepdaughter Emma as his own, bonding with her as they cooked weekend breakfasts for her mother, Angela; whenever the three of them walked anywhere, Emma was always in the middle.
With those fathers gone, organizers hope the race will show their families that the entire community will be there to support them.
"It's not one week, it's not one year. We're there for these families as long as they need us," said co-organizer Armand Doucet, a middle-school teacher and friend of Constable Larche. "That could be ten years, that could be life."
When, earlier this year, Mr. Doucet ran 30 kilometres a day for 30 days to raise awareness for health education, Constable Larche accompanied him as an honour guard for the last four kilometres of his 90-kilometre finale.
Constables Gévaudan and Larche were both passionate runners. The three Larche daughters would come out to watch their father race, and even ran themselves, because "they wanted to be like Daddy," said Master Seaman Daniel Larche, Constable Larche's brother, at his funeral last Tuesday.
Thousands of participants showed up for the race Sunday morning; there were hardly enough navy race shirts to go around, so the crowd mostly wore red. The people of Moncton have worn that colour with pride for a week and a half already, and on this grey Father's Day, it lit up the bank of the muddy Petitcodiac River.
In front of the memorial for the fallen officers outside the detachment's Main Street headquarters, the racers bottlenecked shortly after 8:30 a.m. local time as they shook hands with rows of Mounties in their red serge. In spite of being on a two-week mental health leave, the Codiac region's officers lined the entire race route, shaking hands, high-fiving runners and exchanging thank-yous with the public.
Families came out in droves for the event, which hosted as many strollers as it did bicycles. Jared Hartley, a volunteer firefighter from across the Petitcodiac in Riverview, walked the race in his full gear – oxygen tank and all – carrying his nine-month-old son, Briar.
It was important to pay tribute to his fallen colleagues in emergency services, he said, especially on Father's Day.
"I could be home having cake and ice cream with the kids, but I think it's more important to be here to show our respects to the RCMP," Mr. Hartley said.
The event was headquartered in Moncton, but supporters worldwide ran their own races to pay tribute to the fallen officers. Native Monctonian Natalie Arsenault ran with her husband Patrick Wilson Sunday morning in Rio de Janeiro.
"When I heard the news of what was happening in my hometown, I was absolutely devastated," she said; it was important to her to run in support of the families, with "three unbelievably heroic fathers on our minds and in our hearts."
In Moncton, Constable Deni Castilloux of the Codiac RCMP walked the route on Sunday with his two young daughters to show his support for the slain officers' families. "To recognize them on this day is important," he said, pushing a stroller beside the detachment headquarters.
Supt. Marlene Snowman, the Codiac detachment's top officer, said the turnout was "unbelievable."
"The support of the community has been phenomenal," she said. "This is another step in the healing process for the families, for the members of the Codiac RCMP – members in general – and the community."