MONCTON, N.B. — The Crown at the RCMP’s Labour Code trial stemming from the Moncton, N.B., shooting rampage says at least some of the deaths and injuries could have been avoided had the force provided Mounties with the appropriate equipment and training.
Federal Crown prosecutor Paul Adams told Moncton provincial court on Tuesday that the officers who responded to Justin Bourque’s fatal shooting on June 4, 2014, were outgunned and at a tactical disadvantage.
Adams said in his closing arguments that a briefing note roughly seven years earlier had recommended the RCMP look at adopting patrol carbine rifles, and argued the force therefore knew front line officers were at risk.
He argued evidence presented at the trial has established “without question” that the officers were not properly equipped or trained to deal with an active shooter incident.
The RCMP is accused of failing to provide the appropriate equipment and training in an active-shooter event.
Earlier Tuesday, RCMP lawyers argued the national police force exercised due diligence in arming general duty officers with C8 carbine rifles.
Defence lawyer Ian Carter said bureaucracy dictates how governments work and adopting patrol carbines for the RCMP took time for a number of reasons, including finances and federal procurement regulations.
But he argued that doesn’t mean the force wasn’t exercising due diligence in studying, approving and rolling out the carbines.
“They were working hard within the confines of what they had to deal with,” Carter told Moncton provincial court Judge Leslie Jackson on Tuesday.
“This is not a case where they were sitting back and doing nothing about carbines. Could a few things have been done differently? Maybe, but hindsight is 20-20.”
Carter said independent research was needed to support arming general duty officers with carbines, and said: “It wasn’t just about public relations.”
“The issue was complex and serious,” said Carter. “You just don’t go out and buy guns as a potential solution to every problem.”
The weapons were approved for use in 2011.
Now-retired commissioner Bob Paulson testified last month that RCMP management had concerns over the possible militarization of the force and worried the carbines could “distance the public from the police.”
Earlier Tuesday, Carter’s colleague lawyer Mark Ertel argued that when it comes to training officers for an outdoor active shooter event, the RCMP could not have reasonably foreseen that risk, and the frequency of such incidents is extremely low.
In fact, Ertel argued it was not possible to train officers for such an incident because that type of training did not exist for front line officers in North America in 2014.
“The evidence establishes here that the training course that (the prosecutor) will say would have been a reasonable precaution did not exist. It was not available to the RCMP. They had to develop and implement it, and that’s what they did,” said Ertel.
“The analysis here is fatal to any submission that the RCMP had to provide something that did not exist.”
Ertel also reiterated that the RCMP is not responsible for the deaths of Constables Fabrice Gevaudan, Dave Ross and Doug Larche.
The three Mounties were killed, and constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were wounded, when Bourque targeted police officers in hopes of sparking an anti-government rebellion.
Bourque was sentenced to life in prison with no parole eligibility for 75 years after pleading guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
The rampage set off a 30-hour manhunt that drew in officers from around the region.
Jackson has already told lawyers he won’t render a quick decision.