'We need to do it right': Thousands expected at funeral for fallen Fredericton officers

Thousands of emergency responders from across North America are expected to attend the regimental funeral Saturday for the two Fredericton police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty last week, says deputy chief Martin Gaudet.

Service closed to public, emergency responders expected from across continent

Police officers Robert Costello, 45, and Sara Burns, 43 were killed in the north side shooting in Fredericton on Aug. 10. (Fredericton Police Force/Twitter)

Thousands of emergency responders from across North America are expected to attend the regimental funeral Saturday for the two Fredericton police officers who were shot and killed in the line of duty last week, says deputy chief Martin Gaudet.

It's unclear whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be among the dignitaries, said Gaudet, who has been assigned as funeral co-ordinator.

"It is a monumental task to organize this and we need to do it right," he said.

Together we are strong and we will get through this.- Martin Gaudet , deputy chief

​Officers Robb Costello, 45, and Sara Burns, 43, were among four people killed in the shootings last Friday on the north side of the city.

"We are going to celebrate their lives and we're going to do it with dignity, honour and respect."

Chief Leanne Fitch was "in a quiet place" working on a speech for the funeral, he said.

Costello was a 20-year veteran of the force, a husband and father of four. Burns, a wife and mother of three, had been a constable for two years and served as auxiliary for two years prior.

The mood among members is "sombre," said Gaudet, "but crisis brings us closer together."

"The Fredericton Police Force has had difficult times in the last few years, but it pales in comparison probably [to] what they're about to live in the next few months, but together we are strong and we will get through this.

"We have no choice and that's what Sara and Robb would want."

Closed to public

Gaudet did not provide an update on the investigation into the Aug. 10 shooting that also claimed the lives of civilians Donnie Robichaud, 42, and Bobbie Lee Wright, 32.

Police hope to have an update "in the next few days," he said.

The accused gunman, Matthew Vincent Raymond, 48, is charged with four counts of first-degree murder and is scheduled to appear in court on Aug. 27.

Wednesday's briefing was strictly to provide details about the funeral, visitation and books of condolence, said Gaudet.

Deputy chief Martin Gaudet of the Fredericton Police Force held a brief news conference on Wednesday afternoon. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

The funeral service, scheduled for 1 p.m. AT at the Aitken University Centre will not be open to the public because the arena can only accommodate about 4,300 people.

Priority will be given to the families of the fallen officers, Fredericton Police Force members and other law enforcement personnel.

"We are expecting thousands of law enforcement personnel and first responders from around the continent to join us to pay tribute to our fallen officers," Gaudet said.

"We understand that it is important for the public to join us to celebrate the lives of Robb and Sara, and we would invite you to line the parade route for the procession," which will begin at noon at Fredericton High School.

2 live stream venues

The deputy chief is urging people to arrive early because some roads will be closed at 11 a.m. and there will be limited parking "and movement" in the area.

Details about the parade route and road closures are available on the city's website.

The funeral service will also be live streamed at two locations — the Grant Harvey Centre and Hope City Church, formerly known as Sunset Church, said Gaudet.

CBC News will broadcast the funeral procession and service from noon until about 2 p.m. — on both CBC News Network and the main network, on radio, online at cbc.ca/nb and on Facebook.

Crews were busy Wednesday getting the Aitken Centre prepared for Saturday's regimental funeral for the two fallen officers. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

Preparations for the funeral are already underway. Parts of the route are being paved and a stage is being erected in the arena.

Joe Cernan's team was busy Wednesday laying carpets and hanging black material along the boards.

"We did the same thing in Moncton," he said, referring to the regimental funeral for the three Codiac Regional RCMP officers who were gunned down by Justin Bourque in 2014.

"So we kind of know what people are going through a little bit. New Brunswick is getting quite a name for this."

Visitation for Costello and Burns will be held Thursday at the Fredericton Convention Centre ballroom from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. AT. No photos or video will be allowed.

Books of condolence will be available for the public to sign at City Hall council chambers until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The books will be moved to the convention centre Thursday during the visitation and then moved back to City Hall on Friday between 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., before being presented to the families of the two officers.

Thousands have written messages of support on Canadian flags and banners hanging outside the Fredericton Police Force. (Catherine Harrop/CBC)

'Outstanding' public support

"The public support has been absolutely outstanding," Gaudet said.

A makeshift monument outside the police station is still overflowing with flowers, cards, balloons and teddy bears despite some items being moved inside Tuesday due to forecasted rain, and thousands of people have posted messages on social media with the #FrederictonStrong hashtag.

"Everyone grieves differently, but for me the letters of condolences and the emails that I get from colleagues across Canada have strengthened my resolve. It gets me through the day. It really does."

Costello and Burns were killed while responding to a report of gunfire at an apartment complex at 237 Brookside Dr. on the morning of Aug. 10.

They were the first on the scene and were gunned down as they approached two civilians — later identified as Robichaud and his girlfriend Wright — who were lying on the ground.

With files from Catherine Harrop