MONCTON, N.B. — Justin Bourque was frustrated with his job and wanted to do harm to the oil industry but chose instead to target police officers because of the badge they wore when he killed three Mounties and wounded two others in Moncton, N.B., a sentencing hearing heard Monday.
Crown lawyer Cameron Gunn began laying out his case that Bourque, 24, should have his parole ineligibility set at 75 years while serving a life sentence for three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
“He targeted them not because of any animosity to them specifically, not for lust or greed or any of the normal things you might see in a murder sentencing,” Gunn told the Court of Queen’s Bench.
“He targeted them specifically because of who they were, what they did, the badge they carried, the flash on their shoulders, the uniform they wore.”
A single conviction for first-degree murder carries a mandatory life sentence and a ban on applying for parole for 25 years. But Gunn is arguing the 25-year parole ineligibility period for each murder conviction should be imposed consecutively, which means Bourque wouldn’t be allowed to apply for parole until he was 99 years old.
If granted, that would be the harshest sentence in Canada since the last executions in 1962.
“The question you will have to answer at the end of this is, ’What is the value of a human life?’ ” Gunn said before a packed courtroom.
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.
The officers were responding to a report of a man carrying firearms in a residential neighbourhood of Moncton on June 4.
Victim impact statements from the families of the three slain officers were read into the court record Monday.
Ross’s wife Rachael, who gave birth to a son weeks after her husband’s death, spoke of the struggles of raising her two young sons without him.
“He was ripped away from us,” she says in a recording played in court.
“Every day I just wish he would come home. Our lives are shattered.”
On the day of the shootings at around 6 p.m., Bourque bought three boxes of ammunition but a friend didn’t think it was unusual because they would go to a shooting range together, Gunn said.
Bourque gave a statement to police after his arrest in which he expresses dissatisfaction with his job at a distribution warehouse and also wanted to harm the oil industry. A recording of that statement was played in court in which he refers to setting some gas stations on fire but dumped that plan.
“I decided to wing it from there,” Bourque says.
Gunn said Bourque, dressed in camouflage and carrying the semi-automatic rifle and a shotgun, walked along a road passing neighbours.
“It appeared he was on a mission,” Gunn said.
The first of multiple 911 calls came in at 7:18 p.m.
“There’s a guy walking up the road with a gun at his side,” the caller says in a recording played in court. “He walked right by us. … He’s all dressed army-wise.”
Police radio transmissions and surveillance video were later played and entered as evidence outlining how the RCMP officers were gunned down.
At 7:46 p.m., the first shots “reported over the air” were fired, Gunn said. Five seconds after those shots, Gevaudan is heard over a police radio transmission saying, “He’s shooting at me! He’s shooting at me!”
Gevaudan had two gunshot wounds in his torso. He was dragged by police officers into a nearby ditch where they tried CPR but he died, Gunn said.
Bourque fired four to seven shots into the windshield of a police sport utility vehicle that Ross was in as it was approaching the suspect from behind. Ross fired two shots trying to defend himself but was later seen by a resident slumped in the vehicle.
Larche, in plain clothes and wearing body armour, responded at 8:04 p.m. At one point he exchanges gunfire with Bourque who is behind some trees, court heard.
“Witnesses were banging on their windows, trying to warn constable Larche,” Gunn said, adding that witnesses later saw Larche grab his neck and slump behind his car as he was shot.
A resident saw Bourque walk past her and say, “Don’t worry, I’m not out to kill civilians. I’m after government officials,” Gunn said.
A manhunt for Bourque lasted nearly 30 hours until his arrest just after midnight on June 6.
During an interview with police at the Sackville, N.B., detachment, Bourque talks about his hobbies including hunting and playing video games, as well as his upbringing as a Catholic who was home-schooled.
“It was too strict with all the Christianity,” Bourque says on the video. “Other than that I had a pretty OK relationship with everyone in my family.”
In response to questions about why he shot the officers, Bourque speaks about the unfairness of the world, the lack of freedom of speech and the “rule of tyrants.”
Describing how he felt after shootings, Bourque says, “I know this is going to sound pretty messed up, but I felt pretty accomplished.”
A 2011 amendment to the Criminal Code allows judges to extend parole ineligibility in the case of multiple murders.
The law has been used only once since it was changed. 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.