A New Brunswick Mountie who made national headlines for smoking medical marijuana while in uniform last year has been found dead.
The death of RCMP Cpl. Ron Francis was confirmed to CBC News by Pat Polchies, a councillor with the Kingsclear First Nation.
Francis's lawyer T.J. Burke said Francis died around 4 o'clock Monday afternoon. There is no word on the cause of death.
Chief Gabriel Atwin of Kingsclear First Nation was emotional as he spoke Monday evening.
"It's a tragic, tragic event," he said. "Tragic loss to our community. Ron was not only a good friend of mine, and a great community member, but also a family member of mine. It's a tragic event."
Atwin described Francis as a "man of honour and service.
"Most importantly, to the youth in our community, Ron was a role model. He proved that it was not impossible to rise above the challenges and roadblocks that face our youth," Atwin said.
"The depth of the loss we feel only proves that a life of service to one's community earns the respect of all."
Francis was a 21-year RCMP veteran who was serving with the force's J Division in Fredericton, and had been facing six criminal charges.
- PTSD is a serious problem, says RCMP's top cop in N.B.
- November 2013 interview with Ron Francis on As it Happens
He was set to stand trial in September on the six charges, including two counts of assaulting fellow officers and one count of breaching an undertaking to not possess or consume alcohol and non-prescription drugs.
He pleaded guilty to three of the counts just before his three-day trial was to begin. The other charges were dropped. His sentencing was scheduled for Nov. 3.
Francis was still on medical leave from the RCMP. At his court appearance in September, he said he was focused on healing, and hoped his treatment would include guidance from a native elder.
He was prescribed medical marijuana last November, and said at the time it helped him calm down and reduced his symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. He was pictured smoking the drug shortly thereafter in his red serge uniform, prompting a crackdown by the RCMP.
A Facebook group titled Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness posted a tribute to Francis.
"Our hearts go out to Ron, who struggled for so long, his family who journeyed with him, and all those who knew, worked with and loved him, all of whom are struggling to deal with the aftermath of suicide," it reads.
"Please know that we at Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness are devastated and we are working tirelessly to do all we can to stop these tragedies from occurring."