Moncton residents work to overcome grief after Mountie shootings

Moncton, N.B., residents are working to overcome the trauma of the June 4 murder of three RCMP officers.

1 month after 3 Mounties killed, area residents still trying to cope with grief and anxiety

Shooting suspect due in court today, 1 month after 3 Mounties killed 1:56

Justin Bourque, the man accused of fatally shooting three RCMP officers and wounding two others, is scheduled to appear in provincial court in Moncton, N.B., today.

Residents of the neighbourhood where the violence struck on June 4 say they hope to move past the trauma of that day.

“Nobody in this community is giving any thought to what will happen to Justin Bourque,” said Angela Gates, who lives near the street where two officers were killed.

“People are not expressing a lot of anger, vengeance, or anything. I think they're focused on meeting the needs of the people who were hurt here and thinking about those families who have lost loved ones.”

A woman watches from her window on June 5 while her Moncton neighbourhood is on police lockdown. (Submitted by Daniel St. Louis)
When the first shots echoed through the air, kids were out riding bikes and families were barbecuing supper. Over the span of about 60 minutes around 7:30 p.m., glass shattered onto the streets and blood stained the grass of well-kept lawns.

RCMP officers, out to protect the residents, went lifeless before their eyes. 

“As we were running inside our houses and closing our doors, [the officers] were rushing into dangerous situations and they knew their lives were at stake. I think we won't forget that,” said Gates.

“Right now, we're just focused on meeting the needs of those people who were hurt.”

The shootings took the lives of three fathers: constables Doug Larche, Dave Ross and FabriceGevaudan.

“It took away some of our innocence, I think,” said Daniel St Louis.

He says he chose to live and work in Moncton because of its joie de vivre. He loves the cultural dynamic of the French-English mix and the easy access to beaches.

St Louis has spent the better part of 30 years documenting the sentiments of the city as a local photographer.
Daniel St Louis, who photographed the aftermath of the June 4 shootings, says Moncton has lost some of its innocence. (CBC)

“This [event] was just so deliberate and such a big hit that that's not going to go away easily. We're still going to move on, we're still going to do good things. In fact, we're going to embrace a lot of great things,” he said. “But we've lost that innocence.”

'Like 9/11'

Over the 30 hours police sought the gunman in early June, Charles Doucet spent it in lockdown, holed up in his house with his family, not far from where one officer was shot and killed.

At one point, he said, police came into his house and shut off the lights, waiting, guns drawn, for the gunman to try to enter.

“I don't want to make light of what happened in New York, but for our neighbourhood, it was like 9/11," said Doucet.

“I will always remember where I was, and what I was doing at the time this all went down. And what I did for the next few days after. Seared in my brain.”
Charles Doucet, who was holed up with his family during the lockdown, says some residents' nerves are still raw. (CBC)

About two weeks after Bourque was taken into custody, RCMP again rushed into the neighbourhood. Residents had called with reports of gunfire echoing through the usually quiet area.

“Someone locally here called the police because they thought they heard gunshots. That speaks to a level of nervousness and anxiety that's still there in a lot of people,” said Doucet.

“My immediate reaction when I saw those police officers was almost, not panic, but pretty darn close. Thinking, ‘Oh no, not again.' And it probably took me a couple of hours to get back off that. I was nauseous, I was tense, I was really … it was very unpleasant.”

The false alarm, one of at least 15 in the area since the shootings, was caused by the sound of a dump-truck gate slamming shut on a construction site.

“It can hit you in ways that you're not expecting," said Gates. "And that's why I say it's so important for people to be able to acknowledge and validate that it's OK to feel sadness, or anger and whatever feelings you feel. Just to reach out and talk to people about it. And not be surprised when it happens, I guess," she said.
This Codiac Regional RCMP cruiser pulled onto Penrose Street in Moncton's north end at about 7:30 p.m. on June 4. (Courtesy of Daniel St. Louis)

"We can't say, 'That happened a couple of weeks ago and, oh well, it's done.' It doesn't happen that way."

Gates said she has sometimes felt overwhelmed by the sight of police cars. She also found herself crying at a children’s recital.

“The things that have happened have left painful emotions. They're not always there. But they'll be triggered by things that you have to pay attention to.”

Gates said people are mending with the help of small neighbourly gestures, as well as organized events. On June 7, she helped organize a bike rally for dozens of kids who were encouraged to feel safe on the streets again.

The community has also hosted informal block parties, local walks and small public meetings where people are encouraged to talk about their feelings and call appropriate mental health services, if they think they need help.

“It's been really important that we don't focus on the tragedy of the day, because I think that's not how we want to be remembered. And that's not how we want to remember the heroes of that day. We want to do something to celebrate them rather than memorialize the tragedy,” said Gates.
RCMP constables Douglas James Larche, Dave Joseph Ross and Fabrice Georges Gevaudan were shot and killed by a heavily armed gunman in Moncton on June 4. (Courtesy of Daniel St Louis)

"We're not a crime scene, and we don't want to be defined by those 30 hours. This is a neighbourhood that cares about one another, and that we're going to reach out and help each other as we need to," she said.

"People really want to move on and take their lives back, and go back to what you would say is our normal routine here, without forgetting that things are just a little bit different.”