MONCTON, N.B. — Justin Bourque, the disturbed young man who fatally shot three Mounties and wounded two others in what a judge described as a “blind rage,” has been sentenced to an unprecedented 75 years in prison.
The penalty is the harshest Canada has seen since the last state-sanctioned executions in 1962.
Judge David Smith, chief justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench in New Brunswick, said Friday the 24-year-old labourer showed little remorse after he stalked and shot the officers four months ago in Moncton, actions the judge said were motivated by hatred for authority.
“The crime committed is one of the worst in Canadian history,” Smith told the packed courtroom. “The murders were carried out as ambushes. … He only stopped because he was thirsty, tired and outgunned.”
Outside the courthouse, the wife of one of the slain RCMP officers thanked her family, friends and the community for their support before speaking of the bond she had with her husband.
“I spent the 17 happiest years of my life with you,” said Nadine Larche, wife of Const. Douglas Larche. “It’s now time for us to start the healing process as we piece our lives together as best we can.”
Smith noted that Bourque has no criminal record and was raised in a strict Roman Catholic family. But the judge also said Bourque had trouble holding down a job, played an inordinate amount of video games, had few friends and was obsessed with guns since he was 14.
Describing Bourque as immature and socially awkward, Smith said he was “the perfect storm in terms of social adaptability,” a young man who “progressed from video games to acting them out in real life.”
The judge said Bourque drew his inspiration from heavy-metal lyrics, which fed his disdain for government institutions.
“He was convinced that police were intimidating everyone,” Smith said. “He had had enough of authorities” when he dressed in camouflage and set out from his trailer home on June 4 to murder police officers in a “blind rage.”
An agreed statement of facts filed with the court says Bourque’s actions were both planned and deliberate when he used a Poly Technologies M305, 308-calibre rifle to kill constables Dave Ross, 32, Fabrice Gevaudan, 45, and Larche, 40.
Constables Eric Dubois and Darlene Goguen were wounded and later released from hospital.
“He ignored civilians and tried to only hit police officers,” the judge said. “It is obvious that he was waiting at the ready for police to appear.”
Assistant commissioner Roger Brown, commanding officer of the New Brunswick RCMP, said he doesn’t know if the emotional scars from the shooting will ever heal.
“People say that time heals, but that’s subjective,” Brown said outside the courthouse, his voice trembling. “I just hope and pray that nobody in my position or no other police officers will have to live through this again.”
Crown prosecutor Cameron Gunn had argued Bourque should spend 75 years in prison before he could be eligible to apply for parole — the maximum sentence under a section of the Criminal Code that was amended in 2011 to increase the penalties for multiple murderers.
Defence lawyer David Lutz said a 50-year sentence would be fair.
Outside court, Lutz said he has no mandate to appeal the sentence.
Bourque pleaded guilty in August to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder.
In a rambling, emotionless statement he gave to police on June 6, Bourque admitted he used the semi-automatic rifle that he legally obtained to shoot the five officers in the city’s north end. Afterwards, he fled into the woods near a suburban neighbourhood, where he was arrested 28 hours later.
The intensive search for Bourque left much of the city of 69,000 paralyzed as police set up roadblocks and ordered people to lock their doors and stay inside.
Bourque later told police he purposely targeted police officers to inspire others to follow him in a rebellion against an oppressive state, which he described as “Fedzilla.”
Asked how he felt after the shootings, Bourque told an investigator: “I know this is going to sound pretty messed up, but I felt pretty accomplished.”
In his statement, he spoke at length about his Catholic upbringing, climate change, social engineering, class warfare, tyrants, something called the “black curtain,” threats posed by the Russians and the Chinese and his anger toward police, whom he described as “soldiers” of the state.
When told that each of the officers he killed had children, Bourque said: “Every soldier has a wife and kids. It’s all about what side you choose.”
That cold-hearted bravado fell away earlier this week during the second day of Bourque’s sentencing hearing.
Bourque’s voice cracked with emotion as he apologized Tuesday to the victims’ families, saying the reasons he gave police for the killings were the words of “an arrogant pissant.”
“Everything I said was from hatred,” he said. “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.”
An affidavit filed earlier by Bourque’s 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 affidavit says the young man went from living peacefully with his parents and six siblings in Moncton to buying guns, getting kicked out of the house and becoming depressed and paranoid.
Having pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, Bourque was facing an automatic life sentence with no chance at parole for 25 years — the minimum, mandatory penalty for one or more convictions. However, the 2011 legislation gives judges the option of extending parole ineligibility in cases of multiple murders.
In Bourque’s case, the 25-year ineligibility period for each murder conviction was imposed consecutively for a total of 75 years.
Smith told the courtroom that the sentence had to be “proportionate to the gravity of the offence.”
He concluded by saying: “These crimes are so horrific …. that the sentence must denounce these crimes in the strongest possible manner.”