MONCTON, N.B. — Three RCMP officers were shot and killed and two officers were injured in Moncton, N.B., as the Mounties conducted a manhunt across the city’s north end into the early morning hours of Thursday for a 24-year-old man who they tweeted a photo of wearing military camouflage and carrying two rifles.
The RCMP tweeted late Wednesday night that three of its officers were “mortally wounded” and police spokesman Paul Greene confirmed their deaths. Greene said the two officers who were taken to hospital suffered non life-threatening injuries.
The RCMP said on Twitter that they were looking for Justin Bourque of Moncton.
Const. Damien Theriault urged people in the area where police were searching to stay inside their homes and lock their doors.
“We are professionals. We will ensure the security of the public. We are going to do that,” said Therault, who later broke down in tears at a media briefing with the city’s mayor when he was asked how officers are balancing their grief and the difficult task of searching for the suspect in the dark.
Theriault said police believed the suspect was at large in the Pinehurst subdivision area of the city early on Thursday morning. Police responded to first incident involving the man at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, he said.
Danny Leblanc, 42, said he saw the shooter in the distance Wednesday evening, wearing a camouflage outfit and standing in the middle of the street with a gun pointed at police cars.
The construction worker said he believed it was an RCMP officer until he heard a burst of automatic gunfire coming from the man’s gun.
“That guy was standing on the road afterwards and he was looking towards us,” he said.
He said he quickly retreated into his home and remained there with his family and young children. At one point a neighbour posted on social media that their kitchen window was shattered by gunfire.
Leblanc said few people on his normally quiet street were sleeping as they awaited word at midnight on whether arrests had been made.
“It’s just crazy. We’re chatting with our friends on Facebook and we’re not going to bed until this guy is caught. I’m sure nobody in Moncton is sleeping because he seems to be all over the place,” he said.
Word that police had been killed has shocked the city, he said.
“It’s devastating. I don’t know if he was on a hunt for them, or what,” said Leblanc.
Police had a number of roads in the city blocked and traffic was backed up on major arteries across Moncton.
George LeBlanc told a news conference it was his worst day as mayor.
“I want to offer my most sincere condolence to the families of the police officers who have been killed in the line of duty and those who are injured. It is a terrible tragedy,” he said.
“We as a city must pull together as a family to support those who have suffered losses.”
Sean Gallacher, who lives near the area where police were concentrating their search, said he heard what he now believes were gunshots but initially thought his daughter had dropped some toys on the floor above him.
“I was downstairs and heard a few bangs,” said Gallacher, 35.
“I went to check but she hadn’t dropped anything. Then I heard the news and realized what it actually was.”
The RCMP released its first information on the shooting at about 9:15 p.m. through Twitter. It confirmed the deaths of the three officers on the social network at about 11 p.m.
Based on information from the RCMP’s Honour Roll page on its website, the last Mountie to die from a gunshot was Const. Douglas Scott on Nov. 5, 2007. He was shot while responding to a call for help involving an impaired driver at Kimmirut, Nunavut.
The most recent police officer killed in the line of duty was Const. Steve Dery of the Kativik police force in northern Quebec. Dery, 27, was shot and killed after he and another constable responded to a domestic violence call on March 2, 2013.
The shootings in Moncton also brought back memories of an RCMP tragedy in Mayerthorpe, Alta., on March 3, 2005, when Constables Anthony Fitzgerald Orion Gordon, Lionide (Leo) Nicholas Johnston, Brock Warren Myrol and Peter Christopher Schiemann were shot and killed.
Officials with the Horizon Health Network said the Moncton Hospital was treating two people who were in stable condition at the hospital, which was placed on Code Orange after the shootings to prepare it to handle multiple casualties as extra staff were brought in.
“My heart goes out to the victims, their family members, police officials and first responders,” said John McGarry, president and CEO of the health authority.
The hospital was also locked down and the only visitors allowed were those with critically ill family members.
Gov. Gen. David Johnston tweeted: “Unimaginable turmoil in Moncton tonight with a tragic outcome. Our thoughts go out to the brave people of (at)RCMPNB. PrayforMoncton.”
Premier David Alward offered his thoughts and prayers to those affected by the shooting.
“I was shocked and saddened to learn of tonight’s tragic situation in Moncton,” he said in a statement.
Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney tweeted that he was also “shocked by the tragedy.”