The final, terrifying moments in the lives of three Moncton RCMP officers
Witness: ‘I said what the F is going on here?’
Published: June 6, 2014, 5:03 pm
MONCTON, N.B. — It’s the cold, blank stare of a man on a deadly mission that will haunt Virginia Boudreau for years to come.
Her neighbour, Justin Bourque, who rented No. 13 on Pioneer Ave., a potholed, treeless dirt road lined on either side with rundown trailer homes, walked purposely southwest on the dead-end street about 7 p.m. Wednesday evening, just after he got home from work.
“He was staring dead ahead, with a blank deadly stare on his face with no emotions,” she said. “People have asked me what his emotions were, but that’s the thing.
“There was no expression on his face, it was the lack of expression that tipped me off that this was something serious.”
Bourque’s dress was anything but casual. He wore army fatigues, a bandana on his head, with a long rifle slung over the left side of his chest, a small gun at his waist, as well as various knives, a water can, and a cross-bow hooked on his right shoulder.
Suspect Justin Bourque is pictured in a photo tweeted by the RCMP on Wednesday in Moncton. Photo Viktor Pivovarov/ Times and Transcript
The admittedly odd sighting and Boudreau’s subsequent phone call to police would trigger a series of terrifying events that would see hundreds of Moncton’s residents cowering in fear in their basements and the city shut down and deserted as swarms of police officers from the region scoured the area during a 30-hour tense manhunt.
When it was all over, three Mounties were dead, two injured, and a young man in his 20s with a love for guns and no criminal record faces charges that could see him spending most of his adult life in jail.
As the traumatized town emerged from its adrenalin-fuelled fog Friday, and the reality of what had befallen it sunk in, a clearer picture of events that gripped the entire country this week began to emerge.
Boudreau realizes now that she could have easily been in the shooter’s sites Wednesday evening as he was close enough to have overheard her phone call to the RCMP. But, she said, it was as if he didn’t even see her.
Virginia Boudreau (left) and Connie Bernard. They both have homes on the same street accused killer Justin Bourque lived on and Boudreau called the RCMP after she saw an armed man walk past her home Wednesday. John Kenney/THE GAZETTE
“It will be a while before I feel good about making that call just because the officer gave his life for helping to protect us,” she said. “I had to look at (the officer’s) face, I had to talk to him, I warned him that the guy was heavily armed before he sped up the road.
“I told him, ‘that bullet clip is full of bullets and ammo so be careful!’”
Her neighbour, Connie Bertrand, is convinced the officer was Dave Ross, a 32-year-old married officer and expectant father, who she believes was gunned down when he reached the wooded area at the end of their street. Ross was among the three fatalities whose identities were released by police Friday.
“I have his image burned in my head,” she said.
Minutes after the police car took off, lights flashing, the women heard sirens on neighbouring streets and three separate bursts of gunfire.
“It was only about a minute and a half to two minutes that he was alone dealing with the situation but in a situation like that, a minute and a half could mean life or death and unfortunately it was death for him,” said Boudreau, adding that the situation almost seemed like it was unfolding in slow motion.
Piecing together other witness reports, it seems Bourque then headed in an easterly direction along Mailhot St., and through a more affluent neighbourhood with two-storey houses placed on large manicured lawns.
After 7 p.m. Wednesday, Berry Gibson was getting his truck fixed when he got a panicked call from his wife, Jessica, telling him there was a guy in their trailer park walking down Pioneer Ave. with a gun.
Gibson, with friend Timmy Blackett in the passenger seat and Gibson’s seven-year-old daughter, Erika, in the back seat, drove his burgundy GMC Sierra for home, and as they rounded the curve on Hildegard St., a police car in front of them came to a sudden stop against the curb in the oncoming lane.
“When we got there, we heard one gunshot, then I (saw) the cop’s head go like that,” Gibson said, jerking his head to the side. “He didn’t even put the car in park.
“There were two more shots and police started yelling.”
L-R Cst. Dave Joseph Ross, Cst Douglas James Larche and Cst. Fabrice Georges Gevaudan were the three RCMP officers killed Wednesday in Moncton, N.B. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ho-RCMP
Gibson claims he saw the shooter aiming from a swing set in the yard of a home that backs onto Hildegard St. A black metal fence stood between the shooter and his target.
“I said let’s get the hell out of here, I need to change my shorts,” Blackett said Friday, as the two men stood on the tiny porch of Gibson’s trailer home. “To actually see someone get shot like that while they’re moving in the car, buddy must’ve had a scope on the gun.
“That was a scary situation, that was.”
Gibson said another police officer who had been driving an unmarked jeep, jumped out, moved the stricken officer from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat of his cruiser, took the wheel and sped off.
Gibson made a quick U-turn and sped off in the opposite direction.
A few streets over, the neatly kept homes set back from the mature-tree-lined streets of Isington and Mailhot, seemed an unlikely place for a gunman but that is where witnesses say Bourque allegedly struck next.
Vanessa Bernatchez was watching the action unfold from her living room. She tried in vain to alert the police officer outside his unmarked cruiser as the shooter came up behind him. Her description of an emotionless killer matches that of Boudreau and others who saw the gunman on his deadly mission.
“(The shooter) didn’t even run. He literally just walked,” Bernatchez told Postmedia. “I was completely sick to my stomach seeing someone just calmly kill another person, and just calmly leave the scene as if it was no big deal. It was just revolting.”
Virginia Boudreau. Photo by John Kenney/THE GAZETTE
It’s unclear whose killing Gibson and Bernatchez witnessed, but if Ross was indeed shot near the trailer park, it was either the death of Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, originally from France, or Douglas James Larche, 40. Two other officers, Darlene Goguen and Eric Dubois, were wounded, but it’s unclear where.
On Friday, the police car hadn’t moved from where its driver had been shot dead. Forensic investigators worked in the bone-chilling rain, photographing the shattered windows of both rear passenger seats, the back, and the driver’s seat. They hunched over their findings in a blue tent set up behind the trunk of the vehicle.
Where the shooter went from there is unclear, but it is speculated he retreated into the sprawling woods that hug the residential area known as north Moncton. Through Wednesday night and throughout Thursday, residents confined to the large area cordoned off by police hunkered down in front of their televisions and computers, hoping for a peaceful resolution to what seemed like an unthinkable occurrence.
But it grew dark again. Residents, as instructed by police, turned on their outside lights so as not to allow the shooter to hide in the shadows.
The hours ticked by and anxiety grew until word began spreading on social media that the killer had been captured. Hopes were raised and, finally, at ten minutes past midnight, Justin Bourque was taken into custody unarmed and without another shot being fired.
Michelle Thibodeau had front row seats to the drama as it unfolded in her Mecca St. backyard.
“I’m done,” is what Bourque said as police took control of him.
Late Friday, as the bouquets of flowers on the steps of RCMP headquarters grew, Bourque was formally charged in the Moncton courthouse with three counts of first-degree murder and two of attempted murder. A town that had just been through an intense, emotionally draining few days could now finally breathe again and residents could come together to comfort one another. They stood silently Friday night outside the police station, the tears on their faces lit by the shimmer of candles. Gradually, the silence was broken as the crowd sang O Canada, Sarah McLachlan’s In the Arms of the Angel, and a Micmac song.
“I felt relieved,” said Boudreau after hearing of the arrest of the man whose empty, dark eyes she can still recall. “But at the same time, it doesn’t end the nightmare for those of us who had to live right in the middle of it.”