New Brunswick

Families of slain officers remember their passion for the job

The police officers killed in a north Fredericton shooting are being remembered by their families as kind, caring individuals with a devotion to their duty and community service.

'I cannot even begin to imagine my life without him,' says partner of Const. Robb Costello

Police officers Robert Costello, 45, and Sara Burns, 43 were killed in the north-side shooting in Fredericton on Friday morning. (Fredericton Police Force/Twitter)

Less than 48 hours after Const. Sara Burns was killed in a shooting that left another officer and two civilians dead, a close friend isn't seized by anger.

Instead, Brian Jones finds himself empathetic toward the man who allegedly murdered her.

"I'm sure as we go through this healing process anger will be one of the next. But that's just the way I feel right now," Jones told CBC News.

Const. Sara Burns is survived by her husband, three boys and a large extended family. (Submitted by Steven Burns)

"You almost got to get to these people before they get to that level … but right now I'm still in a shock and I'm more focused on [her husband] and the family. And really, the other person is kind of irrelevant right now. But he has family and I'm sure they are going to have to process it as well."

Burns, 43, and Const. Lawrence Robert (Robb) Costello, 45, were killed Friday during a morning shooting at a Brookside Drive apartment complex. The officers, the first on scene, were trying to help two civilians who were also shot.

Donald Adam Robichaud, 42, and Bobbie Lee Wright, 32, also died Friday. 

Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, is in custody, charged with four counts of first-degree murder.

A small memorial to the Fredericton Police Force and the two slain officers has popped up at the police station in the city's downtown. (Julia Wright/CBC)

Raymond, however, is not the topic of conversation at the Burns household in the hours since the family learned the wife and mother of three was killed.

"You know, it's funny because we didn't even talk about the shooter. Never came up," Jones said.

"I think people realize that you know there's a lot of people that are hurting out there and have problems and issues and need to talk to people, and that's one of the things that Sara was working towards."

Chasing her lifelong dream

The family touched on Burns' love for her job and community service in a joint statement with Costello's family released Saturday evening.

According to her obituary, her lifelong dream was to become a police officer. But it was only at the age of 35 when she decided to chase that dream.

Fredericton police officer Sara Burns, 43, leaves behind a husband and three children. (Facebook)

After marrying her husband, Steve, in 1999 and starting a family, Burns was a stay-at-home mom for 14 years before she enrolled at the Holland College Police Sciences program. She served as an auxiliary officer for two before being sworn into the Fredericton Police Force in 2016.

"Not a day would go by when she didn't say aloud, for everyone to hear, 'I love my job,'" her obituary stated.

Her commitment to the job was apparent Friday.

Burns had worked an overnight shift and was getting something she had forgotten in the police car when the call from Brookside Drive came in. She shared the car with Costello and decided to go with him.

That's not surprising to Jones, who's heard stories of her arriving for a 7 a.m. shift at 5 a.m. to extra paperwork.

Earlier this year, Burns and her husband raised money for Liberty Lane, an organization that provides housing for women and children affected by domestic violence. Jones said she was passionate about protecting women — it was "one her missions."

"She was one of those people in the community we need more of," he said.

Const. Sara Burns poses with her family while on vacation. (Submitted by Steven Burns)

Burns, a graduate of Fredericton High School, was born in Scotland and moved to Canada at the age of seven.

Jones remembers her as "gangly little kid" at the rugby club. He remembers how his best friend fell in love with the bubbly beautiful woman who was working as a waitress at Picaroons. He remembers her soft voice, the familiar giggle and they way she talked with her hands.

The Burns family has established a Sara Burns Police Memorial Fund to support local charities.

'I cannot even begin to imagine my life without him'

Costello, a 20-year veteran of the force known to most as Robb, is being remembered by family, friends and colleagues as a positive force at home, at work and in the community.

"Robb was the single most positive person I have ever met; and that was obvious to everyone who met him," read the statement from his partner Jackie McLean on behalf of his family.

"He had a special way of dealing with people — fair, but strong and tough when needed. He was the only officer I've ever known to write a ticket and have the recipient thank him for it."

Costello is also survived by his four children.

Costello worked in various units throughout his career, including as a detective. He was previously assigned to the RCMP's internet child exploitation unit and, in social media posts, often discussed the dangers officers face on the job, especially the Mounties who were gunned down in Moncton four years ago.

One image he reposted said: "If you think it's OK to kill or attack police officers, unfollow me now."

"Robb loved the Unit work, but loved being on patrol even more," McLean's statement read. "He was often heard to say he was a 'CFL' — Constable for life."

He served as Fredericton-area vice-president for the New Brunswick Police Association. Past president Dean Secord knew him well, saying his death is a "big loss."

"We've lost a friend. We've lost a brother," Secord said.

Shawn Rouse, a childhood friend from Sussex Corner, said he was a kind, athletic individual who made time for everyone.

"He always was the cool guy in class, but he was kind to everybody. Talked to everybody, no matter who you were," Rouse said.

McLean said her partner was a dedicated family man as well as her best friend and soulmate.

"We shared a love of one another that I only believed existed in the movies, except this was real life and it really happened," she said. "I cannot even begin to imagine my life without him."

Funeral arrangements have yet to be released.