Carbines could have saved Moncton Mounties' lives, officer testifies about 2014 shootings
RCMP is charged with violating 4 provisions of the Canada Labour Code in deaths of 3 officers
If Codiac Regional RCMP officers had been armed with carbines during Justin Bourque's shooting spree in Moncton, N.B., on June 4, 2014, lives could have been saved, one of the responding Mounties testified on Monday.
"He could have shot one [officer], but not three," Const. Mathieu Daigle told the Moncton courtroom during Day 10 of the RCMP's labour code trial in connection with the shooting deaths of three Moncton Mounties and wounding of two others that night.
The national police force is charged with violating four provisions of the Canada Labour Code by allegedly failing to provide members with appropriate use-of-force equipment and related training for responding to an active threat or active shooting event, and failing to ensure the health and safety of every person employed by the force.
Daigle, the Crown's seventh witness, said he was working at the office around 7 p.m. when he was asked to respond to a report of a man dressed in camouflage clothing walking the streets of the city's north end with a rifle.
"I don't think it's normal walking up the street with a gun by your side," a panicked woman said in one of the 911 calls played for the courtroom.
The man "looked angry," Daigle was told.
'Would have been within reaching distance'
Daigle said he spotted Bourque near a wooded area about 80 to 100 metres away — beyond the effective 25-metre range of his duty pistol.
With a carbine, Bourque "would have been within reaching distance," said Daigle, who previously served with the Canadian Armed Forces and received "lots and lots" of training on using the C7 model of the semi-automatic rifle, as well as annual recertification.
No carbines were available to the Codiac detachment on the night of the shootings, he said, although some New Brunswick officers were undergoing their first carbine training session at the 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown in Oromocto that week.
Daigle said he had new hard body armour in the trunk of his car, but had not yet been trained on how to use it.
Bourque looked like he was going hunting, walking slowly, taking time to stop and look around and listen, he said.
It was a nice hot day, and there were lots of children and families outside, said Daigle, who radioed Bourque's location to his fellow officers.
"I told [Const.] Fabrice [Gevaudan] where he was," said Daigle. Bourque was walking away from them, so he called out to him, he said.
'He's shooting at us'
"We have a man with a rifle, we don't know what his intentions are, what state he's in. We have to make contact with him, see what's going on.
"The only thing I said was, 'Hey.' [Bourque] heard. He turned around. As soon as he saw us, the rifle came down and shots started coming at us."
I screamed his name, he wasn't answering.- Mathieu Daigle, RCMP constable
Daigle ran for cover, but lost track of his friend and colleague Gevaudan.
"Fabrice, are you OK?" he asked over the radio. "Copy Fabrice?"
"I screamed his name. He wasn't answering."
Bourque had them pinned down, he said. "We can't get near him. He's shooting at us with a rifle."
'We have to keep going'
A few moments later, Daigle found Gevaudan lying on the ground wounded.
He dragged Gevaudan inside a resident's garage, out of the line of fire, and started CPR, he said.
"[I] tried to save my friend," Daigle recounted through tears.
But there was nothing he or the paramedics could do. Gevaudan was dead.
Daigle went back outside to where the shots were fired from. Bourque was "still out there, we have to keep going," he said.
Daigle also testified about finding Const. Dave Ross on the ground, dead, a few minutes later.
That's when he realized Bourque was targeting police, not civilians, he said. But he never saw Bourque again.
Under questioning by the Crown, Daigle said that when he first heard rumours the RCMP would be adopting carbines, around 2013, he told the training department about his experience and offered to help. Nothing came of it, he said.
He had his first RCMP training on carbines in 2015, he said.
During cross-examination, defence lawyer Mark Ertel argued that even if RCMP had carbines on the night of the shootings, it would have been inappropriate to shoot Bourque initially because they didn't know his intentions.
"It's hard to say what I would have done because I didn't have the option to do it," he added.
Ertel also suggested it wouldn't have been difficult for officers to figure out how to use the hard body armour, likening it to putting on hockey shoulder pads.
He also noted officers received an email a few weeks before, suggesting they try putting the armour on before going out in the field.
"You don't know what you're getting into once you're getting out [of] you're vehicle," replied Daigle. Officers aren't going to learn how to use it in a high-stress situation, he said.
'I think he's out for us'
The trial also heard Monday from Const. Rob Nickerson, another one of the first officers to respond to the Bourque sightings.
He said he saw Gevaudan put his left arm over his head to try to protect himself from bullets. "At that point your honour, I knew it was real," Nickerson told the judge.
When he later saw the way the bullets pierced through Gevaudan's vest, he knew Bourque had a high-powered rifle, he said.
I still say to this day he could have easily killed 50 to 80 people if he wanted to.- Rob Nickerson, RCMP constable
Nickerson also testified about hearing Ross say he had Bourque in sight. "I'm going high risk," Ross had said over the radio.
Shortly after, Nickerson found a trail of blood and Ross's lifeless body. He had been shot in the face, he said.
With two of his colleagues down and none of the curious citizens milling about injured, Nickerson said, that's when he realized Bourque was targeting police. "I think he's out for us," he recalled telling his partner.
"I still say to this day [Bourque] could have easily killed 50 to 80 people if he wanted to."
'Do we still have to keep moving?'
Nickerson said he took off his uniform shirt so he wouldn't be recognized as an officer, as he heard over the radio a third person had been shot. He even tried to remove the stripes from his pants, but he couldn't because they were stitched on, he said.
"Do we still have to keep moving?" Nickerson asked dispatch in a recording of a radio call played for the courtroom. "Because again, he's got the high power, he's got the scope," he said.
Nickerson testified he received no direction from his superiors that night, other than for him and Daigle to shelter Gevaudan and perform CPR.
"I still have somewhat of a distrust with the RCMP," he said, adding he suffers from nightmares and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
"In the training we get now [with carbines], we don't have to put ourselves in harm's way, we don't have to get as close," he said.
Bourque pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of attempted murder in the Moncton shootings and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 75 years — the longest prison sentence in Canadian history.
The RCMP's trial began on April 24 and is scheduled to resume on Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. AT. About two months have been set aside.
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With files from Gabrielle Fahmy