MONCTON, N.B. — Justin Bourque apologized Tuesday to the families of the Mounties he shot in the north end of Moncton on June 4, saying in a quavering voice that the reasons he gave to police for killing three officers and wounding two others were the words of an “arrogant pissant.”
Bourque, speaking at the conclusion of a two-day sentencing hearing in the Court of Queen’s Bench, started by acknowledging the pain the victims’ families must have felt Monday after they watched his emotionless, rambling statement to police on June 6.
“It’s the talk of some arrogant pissant, as if it was nothing to me,” he said. “I want the families to know … it does mean something to me.”
In the three-hour, videotaped statement, Bourque appears relaxed as he leans back in a chair and explains that he wanted to encourage people to rise up against the “soldiers” that defend federal institutions and protect the rich from the poor.
He calmly muses about his strict Catholic upbringing, climate change, evolution, social engineering, class warfare, tyrants, something called the “black curtain” and threats posed by the Russians and the Chinese.
“I know this is going to sound pretty messed up, but I felt pretty accomplished,” he told police.
The 24-year-old said his original plan was to set fire to several Moncton gas stations to harm the oil industry, but he ditched that idea because of problems with his bicycle.
On Tuesday, Bourque said he had changed his mind about what he had said and done.
“Everything I said was from hatred,” he said, referring to the police statement. “If you had asked me about this two days (after the shootings), there was nothing to be proud of. I took the easy way out.”
Before he was led out of the courtroom, Bourque offered an apology.
“Saying sorry or any apology is almost useless, but I am sorry,” he said. “There’s nothing else to say.”
An agreed statement of facts previously filed with the court says Bourque’s actions were both “planned and deliberate” when he used a Poly Technologies M305, 308-calibre semi-automatic rifle to kill constables Dave Ross, 32, Fabrice Gevaudan, 45, and Douglas Larche, 40. Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were also wounded.
A 28-hour manhunt for Bourque left much of Moncton paralyzed until his arrest just after midnight on June 6.
Bourque legally bought the gun on July 24, 2009, and had a valid firearms certificate for it, Crown attorney P.J. Veniot said Tuesday.
In August, Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
Crown attorney Cameron Gunn told Judge David Smith that Bourque had admitted to “one of the most heinous crimes in Canadian history” and has shown no remorse.
At the very least, Bourque faces a mandatory life sentence with no parole eligibility for 25 years for the first-degree murder charges.
However, Gunn said the judge should use a 2011 amendment to the Criminal Code that allows judges to extend parole ineligibility in cases of multiple murders. In Bourque’s case, Smith could decide that the 25-year ineligibility period for each of the three murder convictions should be imposed consecutively, which means Bourque wouldn’t be allowed to apply for parole until he was 99 years old.
That’s what Gunn wants, saying the federal government changed the law to eliminate what it called the “volume discount” for multiple murderers.
“My question, chief justice, is: whose life do we devalue here?” Gunn said, adding that the sentences for the attempted murder charges should be served concurrently.
Defence lawyer David Lutz is asking for two consecutive parole ineligibility periods, which would amount to 50 years.
In either case, Bourque is facing the harshest sentence in Canada since the last executions in 1962.
The amended Criminal Code provision cited by Gunn has been used only once before. In September 2013, a judge in Edmonton sentenced an armoured-car guard to life in prison with no chance at parole for 40 years for gunning down four of his colleagues during a robbery in June 2012.
Travis Baumgartner had pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and a charge of attempted murder.
Smith said he will sentence Bourque on Friday.
Legal scholars have suggested it’s unlikely Bourque will receive the maximum, 75-year sentence given that his age, lack of criminal record and guilty pleas should be considered mitigating factors. As well, they say such a sentence could subjected to a constitutional challenge citing cruel and unusual punishment.
Gunn told the court that denunciation of the crimes must take precedence over rehabilitation.
He said Bourque targeted police to start a revolution, but failed to incite anyone.
“His notion that he was involved in some kind of rebellion, I would suggest, is twisted,” Gunn said. “The actions of Mr. Bourque motivated citizens to come to the aid of the police.”
Lutz said he had very little to say after the court heard his client’s statement to police. He said Bourque told him from the beginning that he wanted to plead guilty to all charges.
“Though he comes across as unsympathetic in his statement to police … he has never wavered in knowing that what he did was wrong, very wrong,” said Lutz, adding that the magnitude of the crimes were eclipsed only by those of child killer Clifford Olson.
Still, Lutz said setting Bourque’s parole ineligibility period at 75 years would be “academic,” as it is unlikely he would live that long.
Lutz said Bourque’s home-schooling left him with difficulty navigating in a society where he identified with “little cartoon characters” in video games like Super Mario Brothers and Mega Man.
“His thought process is extremely defective,” said Lutz.
Though Bourque was recently found competent to stand trial after undergoing a psychiatric assessment, an affidavit filed by his father Victor says that in the 18 months before the shootings, Justin Bourque’s mental or emotional state deteriorated to the point he was “ranting and raging against all authority.”
The assessment has been sealed by the court and none of its contents were presented during the sentencing hearing.