Constable Fabrice Gévaudan loved being a Mountie and embraced his role as a Canadian law-enforcement officer. When his parents back home in France worried about the dangers of the job, Constable Gévaudan reassured them.
"Where I am, it's peaceful. There are no nuts here," he told his father, Jacques Gévaudan, a doctor.
This week, those words could only seem hollow. Constable Gévaudan, along with colleagues David Ross and Douglas Larche, was brutally shot dead on the job in the land he came to adopt as his own.
The death of 45-year-old Constable Gévaudan ricocheted across the Atlantic and into the home of Laurence and Jacques Gévaudan outside Paris. They had watched their adventurous son from afar as he graduated into the RCMP, framing the photo of him smiling broadly in his red serge dress uniform, the Canadian flag draped gracefully behind him.
"He was very proud," Laurence Gévaudan said from her home on Friday. "And we were so proud of him."
Now, the grieving parents have decided to have their son's ashes remain in Canada. It is the land, they say, he came to adore.
"He had dual citizenship but Canada was his country. That is why we're leaving him on Canada's soil," his mother said. "He loved his country so much, so he has to be there. … He died for his country – it was his country now."
The shooting has left three shattered families grieving for their own, each suffering their personally devastating loss.
Constable Ross, 32, originally from Victoriaville, Que., had been posted in New Brunswick since 2007. A K-9 squad dog handler, he was the father of a young boy and his wife is expecting another child. After being posted to Moncton, he married a local nurse, Rachael Vander Ploeg. "He said he considered himself very lucky to have married such a great woman," said Charles Doucet, who attended church with Constable Ross.
For the past six years, Constable Ross attended Hillside Baptist Church, about two kilometres from where the gunman lived. Constable Ross was not a loquacious man but he was friendly and humble, Mr. Doucet said. The constable's modest home sits just 100 metres from the wooded area where police arrested Justin Bourque, 24, early Friday. Neighbours said Constable Ross would always exchange gifts with them at Christmas, such as wine or cookies. He was rarely seen without his police dog at his side.
Constable Ross's mother, Hélène Rousseau, told reporters Friday that she last spoke to her son two days ago. She said her son loved his country and died doing what he loved.
"I have good memories because before leaving him, two days before his death, and every time he would hang up, it was always 'never forget how much I love you,'" she said while fighting back tears. "He's my hero and I'm really proud of him."
Constable Larche, 40, a New Brunswick native, was from Saint John and graduated from training depot in 2002.
In his 12 years in service, Constable Larche did everything from trying to limit the number of drunk drivers during the holiday season to seeing a man on trial throw a copy of the Criminal Code at a judge. He once saved the life of a baby in Moncton, for which he received a Commander's Commendation in 2008.
Constable Gévaudan left France in his 20s to seek greater opportunities in Canada. He did everything from fix bicycles to work at Club Meds, and seemed happiest when jumping out of airplanes or diving in the icy waters of the St. Lawrence. Married and the stepfather to a girl, he was also an avid runner who participated in marathons and loved the outdoors. He was a general-duty RCMP officer and member of the force's dive unit.
Coping with his death, his father manages to find solace in symbolism. On Friday, France was in the midst of commemorations of the D-Day invasion. Jacques Gévaudan says he could not help but think of the blood Canadians had spilled on French soil. On the eve of the 70th anniversary of that historic day, his son, Fabrice, left his blood on the soil of Canada.
"For me, this coincidence is a symbol," Mr. Gévaudan said, his voice breaking. "My son gave back, he gave back to his adoptive country. But it is a sad exchange."